The European Union, this week, announced ambitious proposals to embargo the importation of Russian oil by the end of 2022. After teeth-pulling negotiations which have been met with strident objections from several member states, including Hungary and Slovakia, and public doubt over the impact of such measures, its Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyden declared that these measures would be gradually implemented throughout the course of the year.
This didn’t reassure markets, with crude oil prices quickly rising above $114 per barrel as of Friday morning, and Moscow officials predicting that the bloc would still be buying Russian oil via third countries and intermediaries, a strategy that has allegedly been utilized by Iran under tough American sanctions.
Despite marketing the measures as tough, for multiple reasons the EU is set to be the biggest loser of such an effort. The proposed embargo reveals a huge strategic vulnerability in its “energy security” – the ability of a state, or group of states, to secure access to energy resources when they are not capable of producing enough of their own. When you consider how many wars have been fought by the West purely over access to oil supplies, including two in Iraq, this is a big deal.
For the EU, cutting off oil dependency continues to be a difficult step which will exacerbate already surging energy costs and inflation across the continent. How will the bloc find new supplies? And if so, surely relying more on other partners will bring new dangers?