Disclaimer :The Ukraine and Russia conflict is ongoing and has multifaceted implications,  this article does not cover all.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Valery Gerasimov. Photograph: Mikhail Kireyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

From the outset of the Russia and Ukraine war in January of 2021, the threat of economic recession over gas prices has loomed over Europe. Mostly because, the biggest supplier of oil and natural gas to Europe has been Russia. And, by proxy ,there were legitimate concerns that Putin would use several levers at his disposal to either test Europe’s patience or ratchet up the pain when it came to supporting Ukraine. 

Russia imposed dozens of sanctions and cut off oil and natural gas. However, by the end of this article I will unpack whether Putin failed to do the one thing he is good at- holding ransom!

Before the War began Russia supplied anywhere between 40 to 50 percent of the EU’s

natural gas Imports. This meant it occupied the space for being Europe’s main core-energy producer, thus putting Russia in a seemingly good position to use the lever. 

Weather : An addition to the existing equation

The biggest use of natural oil and energy after transportations is heating. 

In one of Putin’s earliest threats,he mentioned that the EU would not support Ukraine just so they could stay warm during winters. In 2021 and 2022, eight European countries experienced their hottest winter days already (going as low as 25 C) for January. The consequence of unseasonably warm weather is that the demand for energy ultimately falls.The demand for fuel was much smaller in most parts of Europe 

than the previous years.


FILE – Pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 2’ gas pipline are pictured in Lubmin, northern Germany, on Feb. 15, 2022.

As mentioned earlier, it was quite apparent from Putin’s Past decisions and his general approach to international relations that Russia would use withholding  natural gas supply as a way to wage a proxy war between Russia and the west. So by march  2021, significant steps were taken to mitigate and reduce dependency on Russia.  As the scale of the war became clearer, Europe braced itself for the worst possible outcome. Many pipelines like the Nord-stream2 (major natural gas pipeline that connects Russia and Germany) had their licence suspended by the end of February 2021. More substantively, most countries filled up their natural gas facilities to capacity with liquified natural gas imported from either Qatar or the United States of America.These steps obviously do not mean total independence from Russian oil but  give Europe and the rest of the world some breathing room.

Political Will

Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

All of the previous reasons bring us to the third and probably the biggest contributor to Putin’s failures.

Let it be standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine to make significant investment in defence infrastructure, European leaders have gone far beyond what was otherwise expected of them. From Germany making new investments to its new era of military to dogged nations like Sweden and Norway applying to NATO military alliance, things that were unimaginable during peacetime, did happen. Adding to that, the enormous spending Europe did to support Ukraine directly even through the cost of living and energy crisis . Countries spent billions of dollars to support clean energy switch much more aggressively with the germany announcing 200 billion Euro energy subsidy program and Italy earmarking 21 billion euros to help countries and firms.These three factors together have allowed for natural gas prices to come tumbling down from their lofty highs to close to 350 Euros per megawatt hour to pre-invasion levels of about 76 Euro a megawatt hour.

What now? What’s next?

The point of this article is not to say that Putin’s gas War hasn’t tested and ultimately hurt European nations and citizens. While Putin may have failed to effectively cripple European economies and cut off nations from supporting Ukraine,the increased cost of living is deeply affecting a lot of people with many unable to afford to heat their homes and many more forced to cut back.

There is still a chance for Putin’s plan to hold Europe for ransom come to fruition in 2023. There’s no reason to think that the situation is not going to get progressively more difficult.Barring an extraordinary deal with OPEC, it’s not obvious where the replenishment of the gas stocks will come from next year. Weather can’t be predicted with accuracy, foresight can always wane and political will might not stand for another 12 months. All through this,Russia has not won and Ukraine has not lost the war. The answer to the question “Has Putin failed?” cannot be answered just yet.

-Manya Pandey

 FY BSc (2022-25)

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