The editorial “Europe must end its Russian energy habit” (FT View, March 4) and the outstanding article by Martin Sandbu (“Why the EU should end Russian gas imports now”, Opinion, Free Lunch, FT.com March 3) are timely. It is urgent that the west declares an embargo on Russian oil and gas to give them similar pariah status to that of blood diamonds a few years ago. This is the only serious card the west has to play short of military confrontation.
With our immense experience of Russia and other former Soviet states ever since first working with senior members of the Russian government during the economic transition in the early 1990s, we have long been aware of the gulf in understanding between western ideas of trust and rule of law and those of the Russian elite.
The calamitous undermining of liberal democracies in recent years, from within and without, has confirmed the elite’s cynicism about such western ideas. By comparison, Putin’s alternative premodern doctrine of “might is right” has gathered strength each time he gets away with a revanchist outrage worse than before.
With civilised nations around the world finally waking up to the Putin threat, Sandbu’s conclusion that “this is the right moment to throw everything we have at Putin and his regime” needs to be adopted by the international community without delay. Western governments should spell out a policy for cutting Russia off from international energy markets, with a graduated list of conditions for re-entry. This should clearly penalise further Russian military escalation in Ukraine, giving Putin every incentive to negotiate an end to the war.
A determined show of strength in economic terms is our last best chance of stopping the current madness in its tracks. The alternatives of a new long-term schism between the free world and the rest, let alone escalation towards existential levels of threat, make it essential that western countries show they are prepared to endure the economic price of outlawing “blood” oil and gas. If that includes painful energy rationing and recession, then so be it to save our freedoms. We have the economic strength and resilience to overcome such inconveniences.
Sergiy Maslichenko, Former Deputy Minister of Energy Kyiv, Ukraine
Richard Stoneman, Former Director, Russian-European Centre for Economic Policy, Oxford, UK