A year ago, all this really seemed like a fantasy. Let's just recall January 2022.
Just one year ago, this seemed impossible. The German government now prides itself on receiving 0% of its gas, 0% of its oil, and 0% of its coal from Russia.
The German finance minister, in a New Year text for the Financial Times, is proud that businesses have reduced energy consumption by 20%, and he confidently declares that he knows how to prevent the "collapse of industrial production" during this energy crisis.
The European Union has allocated 255 billion euros to implement the Re-Power EU plan: a way to further reduce dependence on Russia. 8 out of 10 Europeans support this course of action, as they understand that the energy crisis is caused by the Russians.
All this really seemed like a fantasy a year ago. Just let's recall January 2022.
Russia was at the peak of its influence on Europe. Its energy weapon was fully loaded, with Europeans officially (according to Eurostat) dependent on Russia for 83% of their gas supplies and 50% of their oil supplies. Frau Merkel's long-term work brought impressive results: Germany was on its way to receiving 130% of its gas needs from Moscow; that is, not only giving its own businesses cheap gas, but also making money from it. Over the past 10 years, the European dream has allowed Russians to earn a trillion euros. With this money, the Russians bought electronics for missiles, and financed their propaganda and corruption.
It is not surprising that Russian strategists were convinced that after the invasion of Ukraine, no one would risk giving up their cheap resources. And in the first weeks of the war, this is how it was: the first "sanctions from hell" did not affect the energy sector.
We started the first visits to our allies with the conviction that Russia should be financially strangled back in March. We had a team of diplomats, government officials and experts who did not have to ask anyone what to do. They knew where to go and whom to talk to.
There was undisguised panic in Berlin and Brussels. Politicians and government officials acknowledged that mistakes had been made, but were afraid to take any drastic steps. Half a year has passed, and with the help of the Biden administration, the Europeans have come to their senses, and come to agree with our arguments and calculations.
The Europeans found a way to replace Russian oil supplies. It was oil that gave the Russians the lion's share of their profits. Limiting its price does not harm Europe, but next year it will cause production in Russia to drop by half. This will kill a large part of the budget and at the same time destroy several regions dependent on oil extraction. Russian gas sanctioned itself, with blackmail and explosions at its own gas pipeline. No one will work with them anymore, and Gazprom will not return to the European market.
And although Russia earned its 120 billion in the EU in 2022, 2023 will be a lean year for it. Oil is cheap, while gas is nowhere to be found. Think about it: a third of the Russian federal budget is at risk. This is according to optimistic forecasts for the Russians, although there are no real figures public — they are classified.
It will not yet be decisive for the course of the war. When there is less money in a Russian family, dad does not stop drinking, but the children eat less. But every year our enemy will be weaker, with their energy weapons gone for good.
What's next? Even more difficult work. Russian energy fraudsters cannot be underestimated, just as their military cannot be underestimated. This year, Europe is in for a continuation of the energy crisis as their breakup with cheap fuel continues.
February 5 will be an important date: the beginning of sanctions against Russian oil products
February 5 will be an important date: the beginning of sanctions against Russian oil products. Russia hopes for a counteroffensive. At this moment, all Russian agents, part of European business, and politicians like Orban are becoming active.
We will need to hold each government by the hand and reassure them that the fuel crisis is not so terrible, and that we have gotten through it and even become stronger.
And then to tackle the sacred Russian cow: atomic energy. In 2022, Russia took actions which can be classified as nuclear terrorism. At the same time, it continues to supply uranium and fuel assemblies, and to build reactors around the world. As of 2020, Rosatom was preparing or building 23 reactor projects abroad on every continent — the very same Rosatom that is putting the entire continent at risk through its reckless actions at the Zaporizhzhya NPP.
Enacting sanctions in this area will be even more difficult than in oil and gas, but we have shown that we can achieve the impossible. All our teams — diplomats, politicians, analysts, and experts — are already gradually moving from a successful sprint to a successful marathon, and we have the strength and the will to fight.
The most difficult thing is what we must do at home. Sanctions are a means to strangle the enemy, but for the reconstruction of a modern, new energy infrastructure, new investments are needed. In order for money to come to Ukraine, we must demonstrate by our example that we are ready to carry out energy reforms — not only to control the oligarchs, but also to make our own energy system transparent and accountable. Appoint independent managers, and give government assistance only to the poor, and also to save energy, as the Germans and Europeans have begun to do.
There are many tasks ahead, but I would not call them "impossible."