In a provocative but persuasive column for the New York Times, Bret Stephens suggests that Russia’s war aim is not preventing NATO enlargement, or rebuilding the Soviet empire, but cementing its status as an energy superpower:
Suppose for a moment that Putin never intended to conquer all of Ukraine: that, from the beginning, his real targets were the energy riches of Ukraine’s east, which contain Europe’s second-largest known reserves of natural gas (after Norway’s). Combine that with Russia’s previous territorial seizures in Crimea (which has huge offshore energy fields) and the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk (which contain part of an enormous shale-gas field), as well as Putin’s bid to control most or all of Ukraine’s coastline, and the shape of Putin’s ambitions become clear. He’s less interested in reuniting the Russian-speaking world than he is in securing Russia’s energy dominance.
Even if this is not the aim, the possibility of entrenching Russia’s energy power is now at the center of the broader conflict between Putin’s Russia and the West.
I’ve been arguing from the outset that the idea Russia acted irrationally does not make sense. Securing energy assets now so they can never be used to decrease European natural gas reliance on Russia offers an elegant explanation for the aggression. From their perspective it is better to act now, to forestall the certainty Ukraine energy resources would be developed, and risk destroying a supply relationship than to endure a loss of influence of time.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top