NATO chief : European countries will ‘pay a price’ this winter for Ukraine support
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg penned an op-ed that was published in the Financial Times on Wednesday insisting that although Europeans will face rising energy costs this winter after levying sanctions against Russia, the continent has a “moral responsibility” to support Ukraine.
“There are tough times ahead, but we have faced tough times together before,” Stoltenberg wrote. “The cost of not standing up for our values is always greater. For Ukraine’s future and for ours, we must prepare for the winter war and stay the course.”
At the same time, Stoltenberg acknowledged a “difficult six months” ahead, noting threats of energy cuts, disruptions and potentially civil unrest as the sanctions’ impacts hit NATO and European Union (EU) countries at home.
“We do pay a price for our support to Ukraine,” he wrote. “But the price we pay is counted in dollars, euros and pounds, while Ukrainians are paying with their lives.”
Europe is attempting to wean itself off Russian energy supplies in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, which has already hiked energy prices for residents and businesses that could soar even higher as temperatures cool with winter approaching.
In 2019, Russia provided roughly 27 percent of crude oil, 47 percent of coal and 41 percent of natural gas imported by the EU.
On Friday, Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom announced it was delaying exporting natural gas to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, blaming an oil leak that could not be fixed due to current sanctions against Russia.
The move came as the Group of Seven agreed to a price cap on Russian oil. Europe has already banned Russian coal and will halt most Russian oil imports at near the end of the year.
“Above all, technology sanctions are severely limiting Russia’s access to the advanced semiconductors and chips it needs to power its automotive industry, aircraft and war effort,” Stoltenberg wrote on Wednesday. “Our nations are seizing this opportunity to diversify our economies and energy supplies, strengthen our resilience and break free of Russia’s energy blackmail for good.”
But those shifts have led to domestic problems for political leaders across Europe. High inflation across the continent, in part driven by the surge in energy prices, has become a hot-button political issue.
In the United Kingdom, annual energy bills for the average household have already risen by 54 percent this year, and consumers will see another hike in October that brings the increase to roughly 80 percent. On her first day as British prime minister on Tuesday, Liz Truss vowed to tackle the country’s energy crisis.
Stoltenberg on Wednesday noted those mounting problems but said Europeans have “a choice to make about the world we want to live in.”
“All of us will pay a much higher price if Russia and other authoritarian regimes believe they can invade their neighbours and trample on international law with impunity,” he said.
“If Russia stops fighting, there will be peace,” Stoltenbeg continued. “If Ukraine stops fighting, it will cease to exist as an independent nation. We have a moral responsibility to support this independent democracy at the heart of Europe.”