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Schadenfreude – Vladimir Putin is winning the tactical war against the West

The Russian president knows that a Western embargo on his nation’s oil and gas is a non-starter – writes our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude

If all else were equal, Russia and the European Union would be natural partners. Russia has vast reserves of oil and gas. Several EU countries need both. Geographical proximity makes pipeline supply easy and economic.

If Russian supplies were embargoed then European importers, notably Germany, would need more oil and gas from wherever they could get it. The United States currently maintains restrictions on exports of crude oil and gas but is considering whether to liberalise.

New buyers entering an existing market would force price increases. There would be political and business pressure for the exploitation of indigenous renewables, which would take time. This would mean costly investment and no doubt trigger environmental protests. Deprived of the income from sales to European neighbours, there could be social hardship in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a brilliant tactician, knows that a Western embargo on his nation’s oil and gas is a non-starter. With the exception of military supplies, embargoes are in any case out of fashion in the West.

The damage they do hits the citizenry, which in a reflex action tends to support its government. Hence, Western sanctions on the Russian leadership lack serious bite. Putin wins. Game over.

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