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The European energy dynamic after the Ukrainian war

Posted on Posted in Analyses, Energy Security, EU & NATO

By Athanasios Papadopoulos, Analyst KEDISA


The topic of energy security has risen to the top of the international relations agenda, particularly in the post-Cold War period, and it has various political, economic, and military dimensions. Given the increased security risks that the globe is experiencing, the problem of energy security has become even more pressing. The growing reliance of wealthy nations on energy resources, along with the necessity for developing nations to maintain output, highlights the issue of energy security.[1]

Long-term developments driven by the clean-energy transition are redefining the global energy order, altering the allocation of geopolitical power, the meaning of sustainable energy usage, and the breadth and character of interdependence. Since the mid-2010s energy transition to renewable sources of energy with the increasing utilization of photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and electric car batteries, dramatically reshuffled the cards for oil-rich producers, in Eurasia and elsewhere. This trend is expected to erode the ability of petrostates to use oil and gas rents as tools of power projection abroad and, at the same time, affecting the way power is distributed in the international system.[2]

Russia’s invasion on Ukraine was a crucial moment in Europe’s energy strategy. Many communities have been devastated as a consequence of Russian attacks since the beginning of the conflict, and many people have died as a result. The international food crisis, which began with Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, immediately affected several nations, and consequently, prices surged, affecting the countries’ economy. For this reason, the war environment has put food and energy security into trouble along with financial challenges. Wars, by definition, have a substantial impact on regional and global economy, generating considerable difficulties in the provision of essential life items as well as productivity losses.[3]

The Russo-Ukrainian war has significantly impacted the energy sector in Europe, causing volatility and supply chain disruptions. Russia, the third-largest oil producer globally, is a major supplier of gas and oil to Europe. This conflict has exacerbated global energy prices and shortages, affecting energy markets globally and the energy sector saw a surge in volatility during the deterioration of multilateral relations between Russia, Europe, and other world economies.[4] Higher energy prices are affecting Europe far more severely than the rest of the globe. The main cause is a reduced supply of gas from Russia, which has supplied almost half of European gas imports and one-quarter of European gas consumption (consumption of approximately 500 billion cubic meters for all European nations, including those outside the EU such as the UK). Because of the strong integration of European gas markets that has grown over the last thirty years, the impact is European-wide.[5] The ongoing war has led to emergency measures at both EU and national levels to address rising energy costs, highlighting the need for global cooperation and stability in the energy domain.[6]

The conflict in Ukraine presents an opportunity for Europe to accelerate the utilization of renewable energy technologies, diversify energy imports, and reduce demand. EU policymakers prioritize these goals to address vulnerability to Russian energy imports, focusing on demand reduction and enhancing renewable energy sources.[7]

In the light of the war in Ukraine, Europe’s energy security policy is currently reevaluated, with a focus on more diversification and reduced reliance on Russian energy. The Middle East can be crucial to Europe’s future energy security since it is a close – knit and energy – rich area. Regarding production capacity, the Gulf region, as well as North Africa, have considerable oil reserves and production ability. Regarding production and reserves of gas, Qatar leads the way, with other countries having sizable reserves. As it works on significant LNG expansion projects, Qatar has stated that it is not feasible to replace Russia’s gas exports in the near future in the midst of the war in Ukraine. With the intention of supplying European clients, the UAE has begun constructing LNG export facilities.[8]

Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States are focusing on limiting Russia’s energy trade to counter its military operations. In March 2022, the EU cut natural gas imports by two-thirds, while the US banned Russian coal, oil, and liquefied natural gas imports, prompting other nations to follow suit.[9] It is widely accepted that geopolitics has dominated energy commerce, and energy sanctions are an extension of the geopolitical game. Individual, economic, and financial sanctions have been imposed in the Western world as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, primarily by the United States and the European Union. The sanctions are intended to harm Russia’s economy, making it unable to pay for its large military expenditures, and pulling Russia out of Ukraine. Sanctions on Russia’s energy trade should be the most crucial of the measures. The implications of Western nations’ energy sanctions against Russia have a greater impact on the economies and societies of the EU and Russia than on other players due to their interdependence relations regarding the energy sector. Energy sanctions provoked by geopolitical conflicts are most likely to result in a lose-lose situation, or perhaps multiple losses. Taking into account the different degrees of disruption in energy trade between the EU and Russia, as the energy game escalates, the economies of both sides will be vulnerable in suffering serious negative shocks.[10]

On the other side of the spectrum, as an outcome of counter-balancing against imposed sanctions, Russia and China have enhanced relations after the war, which damaged the symbiotic relationship between Europe and Russia. The war has led to Russia selling China extra oil and gas supplies at attractive rates, strengthening their geopolitical cooperation. Sino – Russian agreements in oil and gas increased in 2022, with Russia replacing Saudi Arabia as China’s largest oil provider. Moreover, construction of the Power of Siberia 2 is set to begin in 2024. Finally, it is in the context of China’s and Russia’s growing leadership in nuclear power that we should examine the West’s recent “return” to it. The urgency of addressing stubbornly rising greenhouse gas emissions, combined with Russia’s disruption of global fossil fuel markets, has made Western policymakers take a second look at previously-made plans to retire nuclear power plants. For example, after long debates, nuclear energy and natural gas have been added to the EU’s taxonomy via the Complementary Climate Delegated Act of January 1, 2023, meaning that they are earmarked as sustainable investments for the time being.[11]

It is easier for policymakers to claim that current policies have become outdated and that new ones must be implemented during a crisis. The evolving understanding of the current problem is projected to entail primarily securitization of energy supply and a shift in view of energy sources. The assumption behind securitization is that a political problem is framed as a security concern. If such framing is accepted by the target audience (e.g., European policymakers and the general public), it allows for the implementation of extraordinary measures to address the problem.

While securitization is not always easy to pin down, and telling it apart from mere use of security jargon may be especially difficult, securitization occurs at times of crises when stakes are high. Similar to the energy crises of the 1970s, late 2000s, and 2014, it is anticipated that the war will place a greater emphasis on security in Europe’s energy policy. It will almost certainly spark a flurry of attempts to “appropriately” securitize energy, hence justifying “extraordinary measures” such as changes in competencies within European energy governance or straining the bounds of current norms and standards.[12]

Concerns over energy supply have risen to the fore, particularly in Europe, following the huge rise in energy costs in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The conflict has caused serious disruptions in the energy markets, triggered a significant reroute of global energy flows to lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, and required a rapid legislative reaction to secure energy availability and affordability for European enterprises and citizens.[13]

Ultimately, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has expedited certain pre-existing tendencies favoring the move to renewable energy sources, with the EU leading the way in this regard. Those theorists who argued that economic interdependence is the best way to avoid conflict were proven wrong, as Russia’s weaponization of Europe’s energy reliance had the exact opposite effect. Energy securitization compels Europe to seek alternatives such as LNG supplies from the Middle East and the development of sustainable energy sources. Lastly, these developments and shifting patterns in the energy industry will undoubtedly hinder the leverage of the main petrostates in the medium to long term.



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[1] Tuna, ‘A Political Assessment of The Effect of Russian-Ukrainian War on The Energy Markets’.

[2] Skalamera, ‘The Geopolitics of Energy after the Invasion of Ukraine’.

[3] Tuna, ‘A Political Assessment of The Effect of Russian-Ukrainian War on The Energy Markets’.

[4] Enescu and Szeles, ‘Discussing Energy Volatility and Policy in the Aftermath of the Russia–Ukraine Conflict’.

[5] Milne, ‘An Economic Narrative for Better Managing the European Energy Crisis’.

[6] Enescu and Szeles, ‘Discussing Energy Volatility and Policy in the Aftermath of the Russia–Ukraine Conflict’.

[7] Steffen and Patt, ‘A historical turning point?’

[8] Al-Saidi, ‘White knight or partner of choice?’

[9] Cui et al, ‘Exploring the risk and economic vulnerability of global energy supply chain interruption in the context of Russo-Ukrainian war’.

[10] Chen et al, ‘Impact assessment of energy sanctions in geo-conflict’.

[11] Skalamera, ‘The Geopolitics of Energy after the Invasion of Ukraine’.

[12] Osička and Černoch, ‘European energy politics after Ukraine’.

[13] Ferriani and Gazzani, ‘The impact of the war in Ukraine on energy prices’.