Europeans fear the next winter more than Putin’s arrogance

The European Union is dreading the arrival of winter and a dramatic loss of Russian gas that will make it difficult, and certainly very expensive, to warm their homes. It is not Biden’s fault, who is looked upon, even in the United States, as the man partly responsible for the sharp increase of the cost of gas at the pumps.But many Europeans are growing weary of the state of crisis. Their government leaders are worried that Putin may pull a deadly surprise to punish them for aiding Ukraine to resist his special operation. The surprise could be a total cutoff of the supply of Russian gas, a colossal move that would be counterproductive for Russia itself, given the fact that Putin has made more money even as he squeezed a large part of the gas spigot. It would be a “lethal weapon” for the economy of Europe, still reeling from the blows of COVID-19 and its variants. Any European will remind you that while they will not be able to heat their homes, Americans will “only” have to suffer for pumping gas at $5 a gallon.Europe was dependent on Russian gas to a degree that governments were too late in recognizing as unsustainable for the security of their countries (40% of their energy import). This excessive dependence explains why still now Europeans deal gingerly with the application of sanctions universally approved by the 27 member countries of the European Union. They know and accept that the future must implement a total disengagement from the Russian sources of energy. The time will come but not right away. In the meanwhile, General Winter will do Putin’s bidding.If Europeans will have to wear sweaters in their homes to keep warm, their jewelers and high fashion influencers will have to do with much less Russian gold. It may come as a surprise to many but Russia produces 331 tons of gold per year that according to the World Gold Council nets $15.5 billion. It looks like the European Council will declare a stop to the importation of gold, a measure that will hurt considerably the Russian Central Bank, already punished by the freezing of its assets in the Western world. At the moment, nothing has been decided, another case of caution exercised by the European authorities. As the president of the European Council Charles Michel said, “the idea is to hit the Russian economy and not ourselves.” In realistic terms, Michel and the European leaders are stuck between two imperatives: acting decidedly as soon as possible and securing the unanimous consent of the 27 member states. It is like squaring the circle under the extremely worried eyes of the Ukrainian president Zelensky and those of the no less stressed American president who has good reason to fear hesitancy among his European allies.It all will have to be sorted out this summer, not only in Europe but in the United States where another Damocles’ sword, the November elections, weighs on Joe Biden.

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