How to cut off Russian oil and gas to Europe with minimal chaos

A decade ago, Putin denounced the 'fracking' shale revolution, recognizing it as a threat. He was right to worry. If the US had not gone from importing 60 percent of its oil to becoming the world's No. 1 producer, Europe might now be his hostage.

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Columnists

April 18, 2022 - 4:49 PM

The Leuna oil refinery and chemical park, where energy companies including Total and Shell are active, stands illuminated at twilight on April 10, 2022, near Spergau, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images/TNS)

What seemed undoable when Russia invaded Ukraine — banning Russian oil and gas sales in a Europe that depends heavily on Russian energy — is becoming increasingly likely. But it will need to be done right if it is going to work.

Sanctions imposed against Russia in February after the war began notably excluded energy because it was feared that Europe is so dependent on Russia energy imports that severing the ties would result in skyrocketing prices, shortages and economic hardship. The European public’s support for the concerted Western response to the invasion might be undermined.

Then came almost two months of war — devastating attacks against civilians, the horrors revealed by the Russian retreat from Kyiv, the imminence of massive battles in the Donbas region. European governments have vowed to wean themselves off Russian energy over several years; but now, amid mounting revulsion over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tactics, momentum is accelerating for European Union energy sanctions. It has already begun with Russian coal.

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