Europe, Russia Ensnared in 'Energy Cold War,' Experts Say

In the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, the two sides face 'mutually assured economic destruction.'

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for a meeting with members of the government April 9, 2014, at a state residence outside Moscow. Putin has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for a meeting with members of the government April 9, 2014, at a state residence outside Moscow. Putin has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine.

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Removing any of these pillars would have “a very, very serious effect in short order on the capacity of our troops to perform,” Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in August.

Faced with such limits, the U.S. and Europe have few options to counter Russia’s aggression — other than perhaps the export of energy.

[MORE: U.S. Coal Use Up, Says Energy Department]

“None of these things will have a near-term impact,” Ebinger says of oil and gas exports, yet “when you consider that we’ve previously had two crises over pricing with Ukraine, if these things had been done 10 years ago, we would be in a different position. And you don’t want to say that again 10 years from now.”  

Sullivan agrees.

“The Russians have proven themselves to be unreliable diplomatic — and otherwise — partners from their recent activities,” he says. “The Russians will try, over the near term and medium term, to prove otherwise, and some might be willing to believe that. But you really don’t want to be attached to a country that is in the process of rebuilding an empire.”