Will the West Proceed?

In the face of the Group of Seven Club’s moves to impose a price cap on Russian crude exports globally, Russian President Vladimir Putin now threatens

to curtail the export of grain from Ukraine and said Moscow was ready to extend its rationing of natural-gas exports and cut off oil and refined products if the West went ahead….


Mr Putin said Wednesday that Russia had contractual obligations on energy deliveries but would reconsider them if a price cap were imposed.
“We simply will not fulfill [our contracts]. In general, we will not deliver anything if it contradicts our interests,” he told an audience of officials and business leaders. “We will not deliver gas, nor oil, nor coal, nor heating fuel. We will not deliver anything.”

This would result in temporary near-term pain for the West, to be sure, with winter a few months away. But it would result in permanent and disastrous pain for Russia.

Near-term for the West: that winter (which so far looks to be relatively mild, but weather forecasts…), and tight supplies of natural gas being squirreled away, along with iffy potentials for bringing recently shut down nuclear power plants back on line and keeping others scheduled for closure on line.

Temporary: Europe can find other sources of natural gas, oil, and coal (including, regarding the first two, plussing up North Sea production and building additional pipelines) for their power production plants and move away from Russian sources altogether and permanently. Especially if the West can get President Joe Biden (D) out of the way of American oil and natural gas production and export.

Long-term pain for Putin: he needs a minimum of $70-$80 oil in order to pay for his war against Ukraine—replacing equipment combat losses, providing food, fuel, ammunition, and other consumables for his surviving forces—along with the rest of his economy, which is almost entirely extractive, which potentiates his long-term vulnerability.

Permanent: he’ll have lost permanently his Western markets, leaving him with selling into the People’s Republic of China—and President Xi Jining will be forcing his own purchase price on Putin, a price made the firmer by the PRC’s own current economic strait. Further, those sales will require PRC assistance to develop: new Siberian oil and natural gas wells and pipelines (presently nearly non-existent) to deliver well output to the PRC. All of which will exacerbate Russia’s subordination to the PRC.

Aside: it’s true that Putin has markets in India and Turkey, but with Turkey, drastic as that nation’s needs are, its economy is too small to take up much of Putin’s oil. India has too ready access to too many alternative markets to be taken for much of a ride by Putin.

The salient question is whether the West has the stomach for what it takes to achieve victory. The jury is still out on that. Especially given who’s the nominal leader of the West.

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