Dependence on Russian gas, ‘no one questioned’

International12 Nov ’22 14:00Author: Myrthe Koopman

According to Hague, the energy crisis in which Europe finds itself is largely caused by the war in Ukraine. But foreign affairs commentator Bernhard Hammelburg and Europe reporter Stefan de Vries argue that it took years for the West to realize that relying heavily on Russian gas is disadvantageous. – The Russians were an extremely solid partner, and a deal was a deal. For a long time no one questioned it.’

“With what we know now, we’ve all done it wrong. But it’s unfair to say that, because you make decisions with the knowledge you have, and not with the knowledge you’re about to get,” says Hammelburg. Yet there were several signs years ago that the heavy reliance on Russian gas would be detrimental to various Western countries, including the Netherlands.

Turning point

“After the Cold War, relations with Russia were fair,” explains Hammelburg. “There was a feeling of euphoria and a certain peace dividend. In that atmosphere and under pressure from the Germans, it was obvious to find a lucrative solution to the energy problem.’ And then the gas from Russia got involved.

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The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a turning point. The relationship with Russia showed several cracks. “There was a whole group in society that started to wonder if the dependence on the Russian fossil fuels was useful. But that was hardly listened to’, Hammelburg looks back. And even earlier, in 2008, there were parties that sounded the alarm. The Russian company Gazprom became very large. The supplier was then called ‘Energy sector’s Microsoft’.

Go through trade

Yet nothing was done. ‘That Ostpolitik between Germany and Russia had shown that it was better to establish good trade relations than to point the finger’, explains De Vries. “The Germans called this Go through trade: In exchange for German goods, Russia supplied gas. This was a way for the Germans to maintain good contact with the Soviet Union’.

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For a long time, no further questions were raised about the dependence on Russian fossil fuels. But the next turning point came in 2017 when flight MH17 was shot down. De Vries: ‘The relationship with Putin then began to show even more cracks. But the politicians took little action, because at the time the Netherlands was deeply involved in the construction of Nordstream 2.’ Holland’s business interests in Russia were too great.

Solid partner

But the former Eastern Bloc already warned the West at that time: ‘From the moment the first shovel went into the ground, there was a clear protest in the Baltic countries,’ explains Hammelburg. “The Baltic countries didn’t want to know anything about it, but we just kept going. Because Russia has always been a reliable supplier and an exceptionally solid partner. They delivered what they promised and there was never any fuss about the price.’

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It has since become clear that it would have been wise for the Netherlands to heed the warnings. “The Netherlands is now working on alternatives, for example almost a quarter of the gas has come from Norway in recent months. In addition, there is also LNG: liquefied gas. A fast alternative, and a terminal was recently opened in Eemshaven. But here too there are snags, because it is about fossil fuels, and you are again dependent on an external party’, explains De Vries.

According to Hague, the energy crisis in which Europe finds itself is largely caused by the war in Ukraine.  But foreign affairs commentator Bernhard Hammelburg and Europe reporter Stefan de Vries argue that it took years for the West to realize that relying heavily on Russian gas is disadvantageous.
According to Hague, the energy crisis in which Europe finds itself is largely caused by the war in Ukraine. But foreign affairs commentator Bernhard Hammelburg and Europe reporter Stefan de Vries argue that it took years for the West to realize that relying heavily on Russian gas is disadvantageous. ( ANP / Dutch height / Jeffrey Groeneweg)

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