Podcast’s Essential Bites:
[0:59] MSG: "[Energy prices in Europe] are [...] up by as much as 500% in some places. [...] After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union started hitting Russia with sanctions and also made a pledge for itself [...] to start limiting its reliance on Russian energy. [...] But they didn't even get a chance to really do anything about it, because Russia decided to turn off the spigot. [...] European Union imports of Russian natural gas were about 40% of all the natural gas imported last year and this year it's 7% at this point. [...] The Kremlin decided to punish Europe by weaponizing its gas."
[6:01] MSG: "The most immediate things [European countries] have done other than cut demand and try to save energy, has been buying up lots and lots of natural gas to fill up their storage facilities and just make sure they can get through this winter without disruptions. [...] Currently, EU storage facilities are filled up to 90% or more. So they have secured continued electricity production for their countries through this winter, provided this winter is not extraordinarily cold."
[7:40] MSG: "[European countries] were competing against each other and outbidding each other to fill up their natural gas storages. [...] That sends an already very, very high price, even higher. And Germany is really being singled out as a prime offender in this, because they had the most reliance on Russian gas, but they're also the richest."
[9:04] MSG: "The divisions are exactly what Russia revels in. Putin basically celebrates the European front, which is trying to stick together despite economic adversity to support Ukraine, splintering. [...] So you can see that this is something that really plays into the Russian playbook. They want to see an exhaustion of the support for Ukraine, a fatigue with the war and especially a fatigue with paying the economic costs of supporting Ukraine."
[10:16] MSG: "These super high energy costs are building into growing prices for goods, fueling record inflation around the European Union. Inflation in the EU is around 10-11%."
[13:38] MSG: "Across Europe over the last several weeks, we're seeing demonstrations with thousands of people taking to the streets more. [...] In the Czech Republic 70,000 people last month came out to voice their opposition to the European Union and NATO. [...] And there they linked their economic problems directly to the EU sanctions against Russia and EU support for Ukraine."
[16:52] MSG: "In recent European history, we have seen a pretty direct link between economic anxiety and crises and openings for populism, especially from the right, but also occasionally from the left. For example, we saw this at the back of the Eurozone crisis and Greece's crisis in 2011 to 2015. Then we saw it after that, in the yellow vest movement in France. And with every crisis, these movements and these parties just gained a little more popularity, they gained bigger audiences."
[19:32] MSG: "European public opinion seems to largely be supportive of staying behind Ukraine. For example, polling in Germany last month showed that 70% of the population is still in favor of strongly supporting Ukraine, despite higher energy prices. But the truth is, the longer this problem festers and unless European leaders get some strong policies in place, the more this kind of support for Ukraine will wane, in particular in countries that are maybe poorer or have closer traditional ties to Russia. And as the costs rise, you can't count on people's resilience and support forever."