James Grundy MP: Energy security vital for our future
The unjustified Russian war of aggression against Ukraine rumbles on as I sit down to write this column, and there is good news and bad news regarding that conflict.
Firstly, the Ukrainian people continue to heroically resist those they see as an invading foreign oppressor, and the hope of Mr Putin that he could pull off a lightning-fast victory over the Ukrainians has swiftly faded.
Secondly, the West remains united in their condemnation and determination to punish the Putin regime, both in terms of public support for Ukraine and at the level of national governments and supranational organisation level, such as within NATO and the EU.
Thirdly, the economic sanctions put in place are now beginning to seriously bite, with the Russian currency, the rouble, at effectively the lowest value on record, and the 640 billion dollar war chest of foreign reserves built up by the Kremlin, the fourth largest such reserves in the world, effectively locked up by international sanctions to such a degree that Russia now faces a sovereign debt crisis, one of such magnitude that it threatens to match the default of the Communist Bolshevik government who were unable to pay the Tsarist debt on coming to power over a century ago.
Whilst the West cannot directly confront Putin militarily without risking nuclear apocalypse, it is very difficult to prosecute a war if you cannot economically support such a war effort, and a significant part of the Western strategy is geared to that end.
The bad news, however, is that at the time of writing, many European countries simply cannot sustain sanctions on one of the main sources of Russian income - oil and gas.
The truth is that countries like Germany rely on Russian oil and gas for up to 40% of their supply.
For the moment, it is simply impossible for other European countries to turn off the taps.
We are lucky in the UK that only 3% of our oil and gas supply comes from Russia, so we have a freer hand when it comes to tackling Russian aggression economically, but we must bear the issue in mind nonetheless in the wider context.
It is now clear that energy security is also a matter of national security.
Whilst it is right that we pursue cleaner forms of energy in the long term to protect the environment, in the medium term we must act to prevent energy price volatility and economic disruption by ensuring sufficient domestic oil and gas supplies are maintained.
Just as we can use economic sanctions to ensure that Putin has no alternative but to pack up and get out of Ukraine, so long as the West is dependent on Russian oil and gas, a tyrant like Putin will use that vulnerability to wield the whip hand.
We must secure our energy supply, both in the short term to deal with the cost of living crisis, and in the long term to ensure we are never dependent on foreign tyrants to heat our homes or run our industry.
The alternative is unthinkable.
For now, let us keep the struggle of the Ukrainian people in our hearts and minds, but let us also prepare for the future.