September 12, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10200

Russian Political Scientist Bordachev: Energy May Not Be An Effective Weapon Against Europe

September 12, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10200

Russia has stopped the supply of gas to Europe in the hopes that the energy weapon will force Europe to weaken its economic sanctions on Russia, introduced upon Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The threat has been hanging in the air for some time. In April, 2022, Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin issued the following threat: "The EU is accustomed to living at the expense of others: first at the expense of the colonies, now Russia must heat them. And they cynically tell us: 'In seven years we will give up Russian gas.' We have the right to answer: 'Why should we wait? If you refuse strategic relations, live without Russia for at least one year.'[1] The threat is now a reality. To sustain hopes that Europe will have to concede, Russian newspapers publish stories ranging from unseasonably cold weather in Europe[2], the steady climb of gas prices[3] that could potentially split Europe[4]and protest demonstrations in Europe against the exorbitant cost of living.[5]

Russia's gas behemoth Gazprom put out a clip showing the long winter that Europe will undergo without gas heating. Please Embed the following here

Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Vladimir Putin spoke of the Hobson's choice facing Europe: "We see what is happening there. They can either subsidize high prices which will be bad for them, because this will not change consumer behavior and households will continue to consume as much as they did before, and prices will rise amid rampant shortages, or cut consumption which is the right thing to do in terms of the economy, but a dangerous proposition from the social point of view, since it can lead to a rupture. Keeping contractual obligations, following the rules and maintaining civilized relations is the best way forward."[6]

Russia's Minister of Energy Shulginov summed up the general consensus by claiming that if there is no Russian gas and European industry faces the prospect of standstill, then "it will be a completely new life for the Europeans."[7]

Some commentators caution against overreliance on the energy weapon to subdue Europe. Political scientist and columnist George Bovt warns that given the emotions on both sides engendered by the war, economic calculations are not necessarily the most decisive ones. Sometimes there is more to this process hard feelings, emotions and improvisation rather than calculation, especially of the long-term consequences. As the saying goes, 'no one wanted to concede.'[8]

It fell to Timofei Bordachev, Program Director at the Valdai Discussion Club think tank to make the case against the energy weapon. Bordachev intersperses his practical arguments with appeals to Russia's sense of nobility. Russians are not a mob like the Ukrainians, and do not want to cause needless suffering to ordinary Europeans. The practical arguments predominate. Russia may be underestimating Europe's resilience. The average European is not as pampered as Russians imagine. Europe has successfully faced energy crises previously; Europe may find alternative sources in countries that are dependent on its good will. France and Germany could actually benefit from a crisis, because it could strengthen their position against the Eastern Europeans, who will have to shut down. While things seem to be going well with alternative buyers, things will only clarify a few years down the road. Therefore, while European submission is the optimal alternative, it would be imprudent to stake everything on such an eventuality.

Bordachev's analysis follows below:[9]

As gas prices skyrocket the EU howls "These are not the prices for energy resources that we desire." (Source:

"Amidst the uncertainty over Russian gas supplies to Europe that has arisen in recent weeks, many Russian observers have been captured by a feeling of impatient expectation that our adversaries will literally freeze this winter. However, it would be too superficial to believe that these emotions are thoroughly shared by the Russian government, or reflect its intentions.

First, such a genuine cannibalism somewhat unites one with the political cultural level of less developed nations, which hardly reflects the authorities’ stance. Second, if anyone should fall victim of its own aggression against Russia, it should be industry, major companies that support the war in Ukraine with their taxes. Punishing ordinary inhabitants in this way cannot be Russia’s objective. Finally, even if costs of heating in Europe grows to unbelievable proportions and houses become really cold, it would be naive to believe that this would serve as a reason for the Europeans to topple their political leaders.

"Let’s start with the latter issue. Contrary to the common perception amongst us, western Europeans are not that pampered in terms of their everyday life. Anyone who has lived in France, Britain or Germany, not only during the summer heat knows: our malevolent neighbors are quite resilient to the cold and other domestic inconveniences.

"There is certainly a sizeable category of European citizens, who have been stoking the fireplace in every room and burning candles during the day literally for centuries. But they, i.e., the big and medium-sized European bourgeoisie, have amassed such immense wealth that they could pay any bills. We are talking, naturally, about the rich countries of Western Europe.

"The rest of Europe’s residents (who constitute the vast majority of Europeans) have long been conditioned to endure hardship stoically. They do know how to economize on heating and hot water, a habit developed in Western Europe not over decades, but over centuries of their troubled history. To complaints of Russian city dwellers, who are used to a warm house in winter, ordinary citizens of the French capital reply, 'you can put a warm sweater on, as well as socks and sleep in pajamas and under two blankets'. I’m not talking about the impoverished, in Europe the average middle class is quite used to living modestly in terms of heating.

"Thus, if European voters do take to the streets to protest and riot, it would be due to dissatisfaction with government policy, not because of objective external conditions.

"And now the Europeans are being warmed by Russophobia, even if doubts that Russia alone is to blame for the dramatic developments also slip through, the launch of the armed struggle overrides any important questions about their own sense of rightness. The fact that the impending problems will be attributed not to economic policy blunders or corruption, but to the struggle against Russia, reconciles ordinary people with reality. Simultaneously, it allows governments to be relatively sanguine about their immediate future.

"Another matter is industry that cannot be warmed by a sweater. Here, a genuine likelihood exists that the coming season will come as a serious jolt to Europe.

"However, we on this issue as well shouldn’t rely on emotions but rather on an objective analysis of the European economy dependence on comparatively cheap gas from Russia.

"The thing that Russian discourse is missing is an assessment of how dependent the industrial giants of Germany or France are on fuel supplies from Russia, and what they will do to get out of this dependence. This is all the more important now considering that the majority of observers believe that the 50-year-long era of the energy alliance between Russia and Western Europe is coming to its end.

"This issue, unfortunately, is beyond the bounds of our scrutiny, and is replaced by the assumption that this dependence is “by default” enormous. Let’s assume that this is the case. But do we know how lethal the impact will be? It should undoubtedly become quite sensitive. But I, personally, have little doubt that the Europeans will be looking for a solution. So far, the solutions came in the form of a somewhat frantic appeal to the closest neighbours: Algeria, Norway or Azerbaijan.

"The first two partners enjoy full sovereignty and thus, their reaction was rather chilly to the Europeans' requests. Baku is much more dependent on the West and fears that its own issues with corruption and backward [state] institutions will make it easy prey to subversive efforts by the US and its allies. Fragile Kazakhstan, which also assures EU member-states of its ability to partially replace Russia, finds itself in a similar position.

"We don’t know right now how much [oil and gas supplies] the Europeans will be able to “intercept” [from other countries] on the international market in the current context. However, there is historical evidence that, in critical situations, these countries are able to come together and find non-trivial solutions. For instance, at the time of the 1973 oil crisis, a solution was found by cooperating with the USSR and building nuclear power stations. And one should at least treat the Western European credo, which was formulated back then, 'We don't have oil, but we have a lot of brains and ideas,' with respect.

"Moreover, I’m talking about the needs of just a few industrialized countries in Western Europe. All others, i.e., the European southern countries, the Baltics, the Poles and the Czechs, could indeed halt their economic activities.

"This, in some cases, would only benefit Germany, because it would temper the hubris of the eastern European agents of the USA, and will allow for the final 'subjugation' of Italy and Spain. Ultimately, Berlin and Paris may even be in fact a bit interested in seeing Eastern Europe’s transformation to its savage primeval state.

"Neither should we rejoice at the Europeans' domestic difficulties and their prospects of literally freezing this winter. If only because in difficult historical times, it’s particularly important to preserve the main achievements of one's own civilization.

"For Russia, this is what makes it a great power, not a 'mob,' (the word Nikolai Gogol used define the political nature of our Ukrainian brethren). This means that we cannot be inherently jubilant about the very fact of physically tormenting an opponent, who hasn’t directly inflicted comparable suffering on us.

"So, instead of justifiably welcoming the forthcoming troubles of our closest adversaries in the West, we should be serious about the future, first and foremost of our own future. We don’t yet know how developed is the energy cooperation infrastructure between Russia and other significant buyers of oil and gas.

"So far, things seem to be developing well, but it’s obvious that a trade turnover comparable to that of European one would require a lot of time and efforts.

"Furthermore, for Russia, it should in principle not be an issue of simply substituting one external buyer for another (despite the fact that this is a centuries-old tradition).

"Under one of the plausible scenarios, a huge spike in European energy prices can be expected to lead to serious disruptions of European industry and force governments to reduce pressure on Russia over the Ukrainian issue.

"It’s hard to dispute that this would be the best-case scenario and would save many lives. However, given the certain endurance of Europe and the complete indifference of the US to the anticipated difficulties in this endeavor, betting heavily on it would, probably mean taking too big a decision."

Timofei Bordachev (Source:


[1], April 30, 2022.

[2], September 12, 2022.

[3], June 16, 2022.

[4], July 28, 2022.

[5], September 7, 2022.

[6], September 7, 2022.

[7], September 6, 2022.

[8], September 8, 2022.

[9], September 6, 2022.

Share this Report: