With the Sunday Crimean referendum seemingly unstoppable now, its outcome certain, it is set to unleash a chain of events that is not entirely predictable but is at best, ominous, as it will involve the launch of trade, economic and financial sanctions against Russia (despite China's stern disapproval), which will lead to a "symmetric" response in kind by Moscow. And in a worst case escalation scenario, should game theory completely collapse and everyone starts defecting from a cooperative equilibrium state, the first thing to go will be European gas exports from Russia, anywhere from one day to indefinitely. So which European countries are most exposed to the whims of Gazprom? The following map from the WSJ, shows just how reliant on Russian gas exports most European countries are.
One wonders just how "stern" any sanctions these countries support and enforce against Russia will truly be. Then again, as the WSJ reports, Europe somehow believes that despite its massive reliance on Ukraine for energy, it can weather a storm:
Mr. Oettinger says Europe is now in a stronger position to withstand possible disruptions in supplies, thanks in part to a mild winter, more storage capacity and pipeline infrastructure that allows more gas to flow from west to east.
But he has also said that the EU should reach out to other gas exporters and build more terminals for liquefied natural gas, and that countries should also start exploratory work on shale gas.
"The Russians are now more dependent on our money than we are on their gas," said Mr. Wieczorkiewicz, adding that around half of Russia's revenues are derived from oil and gas sales. "The EU could also explore ties to Norway, Algeria and Qatar as alternative suppliers, increase the use of coal and import LNG."
But in the short term, others argue that the EU is short of options if it wants to use energy as a tool against Moscow. "Russia remains the largest exporter of gas to the EU; there's no way of [quickly] sourcing those amounts of gas elsewhere," said Simon Pirani of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
"Europe has to ask itself how important is the economic relationship with Russia, which provides that cheap energy, and how important is the political protest that it wants to make" about Crimea, he said.
So who wins in the end: the provider of the commodity, or the buyer who pays with infinitely dilutable fiat, especially if any further escalation by the west against Russia will merely bring China and Russia together even closer. Somehow we think our money is on the KGB spy instead of the clueless and insolvent European bureaucrats.