Canada has announced that it will 'exempt' Russia over a gas turbine
On Sunday 10th of July 2022 a news story broke that went largely undiscussed in public. Canada announced that it would break the Russian sanctions and release a gas turbine that was needed to ensure that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was functional. By clearly signalling that the sanctions against Russia will be broken whenever required, it is obvious that sanctions will not be lasting for a long time.
This follows from a Reuters story that broke on Friday where it was reported that the Kremlin agreed that it would increase the gas supply to Europe and stave off a serious energy crisis if the turbine was returned. It is clear what is happening here: the Kremlin is forcing Europe’s hand to violate their own sanctions deliberately and publicly. Doing this renders the sanctions non-credible.
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The Russians went into full troll mode when the Canadians announced their decision. The Twitter account of the Russian embassy to South Africa posted a meme of an elf freezing to death with a caption that says, “we need more sanctions”. Although it will be strongly in the interest of Western leaders not to discuss too loudly what just happened, we are inching closer to the realisation that sanctions do not work in our favour.
Although the demand for the turbine was a clever manoeuvre by the Kremlin, something along these lines was bound to happen eventually. Russia provides 40% of Europe’s gas and there is no simple way to replace this — at least in the short-term. If Russia had not agreed to ramp up the amount of gas it is sending to Europe this summer, the European tanks would be left empty for winter. It is hard to overstate what that would mean.
Obviously, it would mean thousands — perhaps tens or even hundreds of thousands — of Europeans facing serious health consequences and possible death due to the cold. But it would also mean the complete collapse of the European economy. Factories would have to shut down, as would shops and other services. If you think the present inflation is bad, hyperinflation was a real possibility. It is rare that non-authoritarian governments last long in a hyperinflationary scenario.
Western leaders were — thankfully — never going to engage in economic and socio-political suicide. As out of touch as our leaders seem, they know that something like this could mean pitchforks at dusk — and those pitchforks would be pointed at them. So the question arises: what was the point of the posturing in the first place?
The ‘political’ answer is that the political class must be “seen to be doing something”. But seen by whom? Their brinksmanship is leading to higher energy prices, scared financial markets, and worsening inflation. Do they really think the public care more about Ukraine more than they care about domestic issues like cost of living and inflation? If they do, they are delusional.
Everyone in the political class is looking at each other and trying to keep up with the herd. Leaders that buck the trend and point out that the emperor has no clothes are either berated or ignored. This may be extraordinarily shallow behaviour, but it is what happens when you have politics with a lack of actual leadership. Without leadership we have been left to lurch from one crisis to the next.