Energy crisis: whom do the sanctions really hurt?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the Western sanctions are a failure and a "threat to the whole world". Shortly beforehand the Kremlin had escalated the current energy crisis by completely stopping gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on the grounds that the G7 and EU are planning to impose a price cap on Russian energy imports. Commentators warn against taking Moscow's narrative seriously.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Russia must be forced to make peace

The sanctions are only a threat to Putin, Der Standard points out:

“Without semiconductors from the West and Taiwan, it will be difficult to re-equip modern missiles, tanks and targeting devices. ... Good news for the EU states and their citizens: weakened Russian combat power means fewer deaths in Ukraine. That was and is the purpose of the EU's coercive measures. ... The fairytale that Europe is waging war against Russia is spreading more and more on social media. ... Nothing is more false than this distorted version. Europe doesn't want war, not economically and certainly not militarily. We want peace. Putin could end the war immediately. But he doesn't want to. He must be forced to do so.” (BG) /

Increasingly reliant on inferior weapons

The Russian army is suffering from a severe shortage of electronic chips for its weapons systems, explains:

“The biggest problem for the Russians isn't the price of these chips but the fact that for the most part they are made by US companies. ... So Moscow has been forced to take two steps. Firstly, it is having to use more and more old Soviet ammunition in combat, the suitability and functionality of which is disputed and risky. Secondly, it must import weapons and ammunition from other countries - such as drones from Iran and artillery shells from North Korea. How reliable these are, however, is questionable.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Unstoppable megalomania

The Russian president is reacting like a child, writes Moscow correspondent Inna Hartwich in taz:

“He makes threats, looks for someone he can pin the blame on again, plays the strongman, and yet in the end he remains nothing more than a denier of reality. He ignores the fact that pipelines can't be rerouted overnight, that 'new friends' are also tough negotiating partners, that talk of 'the jealousy of the West' and the 'broken hegemony of the US' won't secure high-tech products and revive collapsed industries. 'We lose nothing', he says, almost imploringly, showing that no price is too high for him and his great power fantasies.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Putin can win the gas war

Aftonbladet fears that support for the sanctions is waning in Europe and looks to Italy and other countries:

“Just like Sweden, Italy is heading for elections. If the opinion polls are right, the winner on 25 September will be Giorgia Meloni. Like much of the Italian right, her party, the Brothers of Italy, has very good relations with Moscow. What a right-wing government in Italy would mean for the EU's chances of agreement on Ukraine policy is not hard to see. 'A winter of war', [Prime Minister] Magdalena Andersson said when she presented the guarantees to the energy market last Saturday. The question is, are the people of Europe ready for this?”

The Times (GB) /

The strategy will pay off

We must look beyond today's woes, The Times insists:

“Sanctions have aggravated energy shortages in the West, which have hence driven wholesale prices higher and thereby benefited oil and gas exporters. But this is a transition period in which the West is weaning itself off Russian supplies. ... Western households are suffering an intense squeeze on living standards but reducing and ultimately eliminating reliance on Russian energy is good for the economy and for global governance. Western sanctions are a long-term strategy to aid Ukraine and they are working.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

More damaging for Europe than for Russia

La Vangardia has serious doubts about the efficacy of the sanctions:

“It's clear that the EU's warlike attitude to Russia is ultimately a boomerang that is doing more harm to European citizens than to the Russians. Like when it was announced at the G7 last Friday that there would be a price cap on Russian oil. ... Not two hours passed before the Russians reacted by cancelling gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream. ... The damage this will inflict on Europe is far worse that the sanctions imposed on Russia. ... The war in Ukraine may not be going as well for Russia as Putin may have hoped - but the economic war is hurting Europe all the more. A winter of hell is in the pipeline.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Don't let up!

Political scientist Nathalie Tocci vehemently argues the contrary in La Stampa:

“It is quite wrong to claim that the energy crisis is a consequence of the sanctions. ... At most we can say that the energy crisis has been brought on by the Kremlin's retaliation, a fact that was laid bare on Monday when it was announced that the Nord Stream pipeline would not be opened while Western sanctions were in force. Those in favour of lifting sanctions should therefore come out and say: it is justified to give in to Russia's blackmail, to abandon Kyiv and to rewind everything to 23 February, before the invasion. ... The Russian retaliation measures are happening precisely because the sanctions are hitting - and hitting hard.”

Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

Empty shelves eroding support for Putin

The shortages could incite the Russian population to revolt against Putin, Jornal de Notícias suspects:

“This is an arm wrestling contest that Putin cannot be allowed to win, no matter how much damage he inflicts on Europe. Because in Moscow the Soviet era is returning, not only through Putin's expansion efforts, but also with the collapse of the economy. Supermarket shelves are emptying and materials for making basic items of clothing are running out. The Russians, who have become accustomed to a life of consumerist excess, may not be ready to make such sacrifices in the name the motherland.”

Konstantin Sonin (RU) /

Corrupt economy is incapable of waging war

Despite the sanctions and the unsatisfactory progress of the war Russia is unable to establish a war economy, economics professor Konstantin Sonin argues in a Facebook post on one of his articles:

“Putin cannot shift the Russian economy into war mode. This does not mean he won't (because perhaps he will), but it is not possible. Because all Putin's ministers, particularly those with responsibilities for individual sectors, are used to becoming multimillionaires while in office. Everything that is built up under Putin takes place amidst eye-watering levels of corruption and pocket-lining of all involved. To change this would be suicidal for Putin.”