Contributed by Samuel Furfari

First published in La Tribune, 02 Feb 2022

We have lived for the past few days by what Washington would have us believe that a new intra-European war was imminent. While the media were so quick – and still are – to criticize the US intervention in Iraq, it is surprising that so few are circumspect today. We are still trying to figure out what the point of Russia invading Ukraine would be and, incidentally, what the advantage of doing so in the middle of winter would be (even if the frozen soil is an advantage to move tanks). Fortunately, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has set the record straight by diplomatically stating that the EU will not follow Joe Biden in his contradictory and rather clumsy exaggerations.

In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles humiliated defeated Germany, notably by demanding that it live with 40% less energy, by doing so, it created an economic disaster that led to the Second World War. In 1946, the Swiss pastor Frank Buchman attempted ‘moral rearmament’ at summer meetings at the Château de Caux (Lake Geneva) in the hope of achieving ‘peace and reconciliation’ in the battered Europe. It was not until 1947 that some Germans participated, and it was not until later that Schuman and Adenauer responded to the call of Caux. From the ECSC Treaty of 1951 and the Euratom Treaty of 1957 – both on energy – peace and reconciliation reigned for 70 years. It is time to stop and think about how to build peace and reconciliation with Russia. Is there a new Buchman?

In 1991, the Energy Charter Treaty was signed

After the end of Soviet rule in 1989, it was thought that it would be possible to reunite Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, as General de Gaulle had dreamed. We were well on our way, it seemed that we would not repeat the humiliation of the vanquished as the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 did. The EU needed energy so badly and Russia was rich in it, so the Energy Charter Treaty was signed in 1991 to give investment guarantees to both sides. Major oil and gas production projects, such as Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2, were carried out with OECD companies. Vladimir Putin had sufficiently good relations with the EU leaders to hope that this would contribute to a strong cooperation between the EU and Russia, especially in Germany (the agreement on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline wanted by Gerhard Schroeder is proof of this good relationship). The importance of energy had led to the formalization in November 2000 of an energy partnership between the EU and Russia. The Russians asked for technologies and expected investments estimated at $18–20 billion per year, but instead they were told about renewable energies and energy saving.

Putin’s takeover of the chaotic situation created by the oligarchs first, and Obama and the hawks in Washington second, has brought us to where we should not be today.

In August 2019, President Emmanuel Macron called for a rapprochement between the EU and Russia, calling for ‘reinventing an architecture of security and trust between the European Union and Russia’. The cement of this architecture is energy; as in the days of Schuman and Adenauer, it can serve as a vector towards reconciliation. The EU will not do without Russian gas and should not do without its oil either: let us be clear, fossil fuels and nuclear energy will be used for the rest of this century and nuclear energy well beyond. Russia can only sell its gas by pipeline to the EU, as China’s consumption points are too far from the only Russian border that can accommodate pipelines. We are linked by history, by culture derived from a common religion and by energy. It is in everyone’s interest to return to these fundamentals and reach out to Russia.

Abandon fossil fuels altogether?

Just as Richard Nixon was able to shatter the solidarity between Chinese and Soviet communists, the West has an interest in fragmenting the resurgent solidarity between Russia and China, which today is the only claimed adversary of the ‘free world’. This should be a point of the current French presidential campaign.

But how can this be done when the only reason for the EU’s existence seems today to abandon fossil fuels altogether? As a result, the EU’s energy policy is taking away the glue of peace and reconciliation with Russia. It is even negotiating the revision, or even the abandonment, of the Energy Charter Treaty as it is in opposition to decarbonisation. This utopia is the tip of the inverted pyramid on which the EU’s entire energy policy is based. The kindergarten geopolitics imposed on the EU by Berlin via Brussels and Strasbourg is contradicted by irrefutable facts: since we bruised ourselves for wanting to reduce emissions (June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro), global CO₂ emissions have risen by 58% up to 2020, and 2021 figures will show that we are at over 60%. This is not about to change, as the rest of the world follows the thinking of the EU’s founding fathers: to own ‘cheap and abundant energy’, i.e. fossil and nuclear power.

The architecture desired by President Emanuel Macron, and hopefully also by other presidential candidates, needs the glue of fossil fuel and nuclear power. If that is eliminated, there can be no peace with Russia. Peace today is more important than tomorrow CO₂ emissions. From there, we can also build another ‘architecture’ to allow poor countries to develop with truly sustainable, non-polluting, but realistic solutions.

(*) Samuel Furfari’s latest book: ‘Ecologism. Assault on Western Society’ (VA Publishing)

Samuel Furfari

Professor Emeritus of Energy Geopolitics
President of the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists
Former Senior official at DG Energy of the European Commission