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It is time to drop an energy cluster bomb on the Kremlin - The Telegraph - 01.03.22

Cutting off Russian gas supplies puts fracking back on the table by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

Vladimir Putin’s terror tactics and alleged shelling of civilians in Kharkiv with cluster munitions force us to move up the escalation ladder. We should respond with an economic cluster bomb of symmetric ferocity.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says the West should cap imports of Russian gas, oil, and coal, one reason why the Kremlin has singled her out for particular abuse.

The other reason is the under-appreciated and invaluable role of British military forces over recent months in helping to prepare the Ukrainian army for the onslaught. Equally under-appreciated is the UK’s willingness to extend its formidable capability in cyberwarfare deterrence to all of European Nato.

The European Parliament will vote today on a comparable motion targeting energy, with a call to “use all possible gas depositories in order to ensure uninterrupted gas supply to the EU.” That implies fracking.

I suspect that fast-moving events will lead to a total cut-off of every molecule of Russian hydrocarbons. It is no longer tenable for the West to drag this out as the slaughter unfolds: “if not now, when?” said Helima Croft from RBC Capital Markets.

The democracies have the means to muddle through provided we invoke national security powers over energy supply. But be under no illusions, and be wary of triumphalism just five days into the war. Russia has barely begun to deploy its military might.

Fiona Hill, former Russia security guru at the White House, said Putin will retaliate in any way he can. He will not hesitate to bring the whole world crashing down with him, even to the point of nuclear Götterdämmerung. If you think he won’t do it, “yes, he will”, she said.

We are playing strategic poker for exorbitant stakes. The cynical Putin of the past was one thing: the millenarian emotional Putin of today is quite another. Russia remains a full-spectrum commodity superpower with influence over the supply chain for critical minerals as well as energy. We must expect him to exploit that leverage.

However, the calculated gamble is that Moscow’s military and intelligence elites will precipitate a palace coup to stop him, once the price for Russia is high enough. One thing we all learned from his humiliation of the Russian security council - compelling them to dip their hands in Ukrainian blood on television, nolens volens - is how brittle his regime has become.

The sanctions against the Russian central bank agreed last weekend, after markets laughed off the original token measures, are already devastating for the financial system.

Governor Elvira Nabiullina, emerged in funereal black to tell the nation that a large part of the country’s $635bn foreign exchange reserves is henceforth unusable, either for rouble defence or to help banks and companies cover their dollar and euro liabilities.

But crippling the financial system is not enough. Putin can continue day to day operations with a revenue stream from hydrocarbons. Oil accounts for the lion’s share.

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It is time to drop an energy cluster bomb on the Kremlin - article by Ambrose Evans-Pritch
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Crippling Putin's financial system is not enough Credit: Yegor Aleyev\\TASS via Getty Images

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