To save Ukraine, America must help Europe

Ukraine’s recent gains in the eastern parts of the country underscore the critical importance of continued Western support for Ukraine. The approaching winter will test the commitment of the West, and more particularly of Europe, to maintain this support in order to provide Ukraine with the political, economic and military support essential to the eventual victory of Ukraine.

The Ukrainians are rightly exuberant about the recent impressive victories of their forces over the Russian occupation forces, mainly in the east but also in the south near Kherson. These triumphs prove what many military planners and strategists have known for centuries: the invading forces are no match for the resilience, courage, determination and stubbornness and courage shown by the forces and peoples struggling to preserve the sovereignty of their nation and their own dignity.

It’s equally true that even intangibles like superhuman courage and determination require very tangible weapons, equipment, resources, and money to take the fight to the enemy. For this, Ukraine has fortunately been able to count on a constant flow of all this from the United States and its NATO allies. It’s no exaggeration to say that the combination of unwavering Ukrainian will and unwavering Western support turned Vladimir Putin’s grandiose dreams of conquest into a hellish nightmare of defeat and humiliation.

Russia is no stranger to invasions, the two most notable being the Napoleon disaster of 1812 and Germany (aka Operation Barbarossa) of 1941-42. Both ended in ignominious defeats for both invading forces and ultimately the loss of these respective wars.

Long, unsustainable, and indefensible supply lines were major factors in Russia’s ultimate defeat by the French and German armies. Today, poorly maintained and uncoordinated supply lines make it difficult for Russia to subjugate Ukraine. Ukraine, on the other hand, can count on a reliable, if not always the most sought after, flow of weapons and supplies needed to repel the invader.

Is winter the ally of Russia?

In a rather strange turning point in history, Putin is nevertheless counting on winter, a major factor in the French and German defeats, to turn the tide, less because of a cooling of Ukrainian determination but rather of a cooling of European will to continue its support. at current levels. He wields one of the few major weapons he has left, oil and gas. Europe is now learning belatedly what it means to depend on a single, mostly aggressive and manipulative energy supplier. The EU and individual European countries have taken impressive steps to reduce and eventually eliminate the continent’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. Europe’s dependence on Russian gas was reduced by nearly 42% in the 20s, with commitments to eliminate all Russian gas from Europe, with some notable exceptions such as Hungary, by the beginning of 2023. Dependence on oil is also decreasing.

However, this dramatic progress will not come without pain and sacrifice on the part of European businesses. factories and people. In Putin’s demon fever dream, he expects European will to weaken, if not collapse, as factories must either shut down periodically or operate at reduced hours. And he expects European popular support for Ukraine’s continued support to wane as they huddle in homes and apartment buildings in chunky sweaters and jackets with thermostats turned down to save money. energy. Will shivering Europeans enduring a struggling economy suffer for their struggling European colleagues in the East? Vladimir Putin thinks not.

Enter America

And this is when the United States must even go beyond what it has done so far on behalf of Ukraine. It must show that it, too, is prepared to endure some suffering in order to ensure the continuation of Ukraine’s gains on the battlefield.

First, considerable progress has already been made. US LNG exports to Europe through June this year were 39 billion cubic meters (bcm) compared to 34 bcm for the whole of 2021. The intensification of flows will continue. However, several obstacles stand in the way. LNG contracts are negotiated with customers for a period of up to 20 years. Exporters are bound by them and have limited leeway to modify them. In addition, the infrastructures on both sides of the Atlantic are obstacles. LNG terminals in the United States are already at full capacity and Europe lacks sufficient receiving terminals. Businesses and governments on both sides are racing to overcome them. For the US, however, the US administration and energy exporting companies should work cooperatively, for example, perhaps minimizing bureaucratic and even environmental standards on the production side as well as on the supply side. shipment to ensure that LNG flows continue and even increase. European governments, so far hesitant to take such non-ecological measures, should also consider similar measures.

Second, the Europeans, who already pay far more for their energy than their American counterparts, may want to see the Americans take steps to show their solidarity not only with the Ukrainians but also with the Europeans. For example, today the cheapest gasoline in Europe is still considerably more expensive, sometimes as much as two or three dollars per gallon, than the most expensive gasoline in the United States, which is found in California. . The price differential for natural gas is even greater, sometimes as much as 40 to 50 times more, than what a typical US consumer might pay.

This can be done in several ways. On the one hand, a simple voluntary program asking Americans to turn down their thermostats this winter. The natural gas saved would then be available for European customers. Another likely more controversial approach — especially in the run-up to November’s midterm congressional elections, in which the Biden administration is most keen to preserve its narrow majorities — is a one-time gasoline surcharge. Revenue from such a tax could be used both to reimburse low-income consumers who depend on commuting for their livelihoods and also to continue US economic support for Ukraine. The additional supply generated by the reduction in consumption induced by the taxes is also available for export to Europe to help alleviate their anticipated shortages.

Obviously, these would be tough measures for the American public to swallow right now. Inflation and the concomitant economic slowdown remain at the forefront of Americans’ minds today. While American public support for Ukraine is still generally strong, it has softened since the early days of the invasion. But there is a strong lingering belief that failure to roll back Putin’s invasion will only encourage the Russian bear to seek prey elsewhere in Europe. Stopping bully Putin means continuing to support Ukraine through the United States and Europe during the harsh winter months.

The most important point is less the concrete measures taken than the demonstration of America to Europe that America, too, is ready to suffer to save Ukraine.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

Mary I. Bruner