Europe faces a dire winter : the first this century largely without Russian energy . Our prospects next year look no less grim . Whether we liked it or not , we were dependent on our neighbour .
European leaders did not appreciate this . Some still don ’ t . Their tough talk in the lead up to this crisis has come at a heavy cost . The problem with intransigence – “ Russia doesn ’ t get to decide ” – is one ’ s adversary may test one ’ s propositions .
Our moral posturing may have felt gratifying . Empowering even . But it was not strong diplomacy . It was the opposite – and all the worse because it was done from a position of weakness . “ Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war ,” said Britain ’ s war-time prime minister Winston Churchill .
We ’ ll never know if a concerted effort to address all parties ’ security concerns could have averted this war . But we never tried it . Russian president Vladimir Putin no doubt underestimated the consequences of his actions . But he was not the only one to do so . Now we are caught in a cycle of escalation .
To back down is intolerable , so we double down on weapons and sanctions . These are invariably met with counter escalations and the cycle continues . With the sabotage of Russia ’ s Nord Stream pipelines to Germany , Russia has lost much of its remaining leverage over Europeans . As winter starts to bite , there will be less upside for Europeans to reverse course , even if their leaders wanted to – of which there is no sign .
Hubris brought us to this moment – the assumption our currency was more valuable than the commodities it buys ; that Europe could go without energy longer than Russia could forego euros ; that energy is not quite the foundation of economic activity it is ; that it can easily be substituted ; that a continent dependent on fuel imports could afford to try to lock one of the world ’ s biggest suppliers out of an already tight global market ; that we could try to strangle an adversary into submission without it doing the same to us ; that our friends on the other side of the Atlantic pursue our interests and not their own .
Half of Europe ’ s aluminium and zinc production is now offline – do we want the rest to follow ? Extricating ourselves from the mess we are in will be painful and difficult . The process needs to start with the timeless advice for anyone stuck in a hole : stop digging .