How Russia hooked Europe on its oil and gas – and overcame US efforts to prevent energy dependence on Moscow

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) The Biden administration hopes its threat of “severe economic consequences” deters Russia from invading Ukraine – an event Americans officials say could be imminent.

In response, the U.S. said it may ban the export of microchips and other technologies to critical sectors like artificial intelligence and aerospace and freeze the personal assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other sanctions. Meanwhile, the Senate is preparing its own “mother of all sanctions” – such as against Russian banks and government debt – that could take effect even if Putin ultimately stands down from a military confrontation.

The U.S. and its allies have been stressing – as seen in President Joe Biden’s Feb. 7, 2022, meeting with the German chancellor – that they are united on the consequences for Russia should it invade.


But Russia has something that may undercut that solidarity: a network of European countries, Germany in particular, dependent on it for energy exports, especially natural gas. That may make them reluctant to go along with severe U.S. sanctions.

This dependence didn’t happen overnight. And as I’ve learned while working on a book on U.S. economic warfare against the USSR during the Cold War, this issue has tended to divide America and its allies – in part because of how Russia has exploited the ambiguity of its intentions.

A Cold War concern

The U.S. has long speculated about Russian willingness to use trade to tie the hands of other countries – a concern dating back to the early days of the Cold War.

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