The West has been cautious with its sanctions against Russia so far, understandably worried about the rebound effect such measures might have on Europe’s own interests. This is especially apparent when it comes to energy; Europe relies on Russia for some 30 percent of its gas needs. Taking action against Russia’s energy sector therefore imperils the continent’s own energy security. But, as the New York Times reports, the West is putting in place sanctions against Russia’s energy interests, and to ameliorate potential short-term supply disruptions, it is targeting technologies important to Moscow’s long-term energy outlook:
In announcing coordinated sanctions, American and European leaders went beyond previous moves against banking and defense industries in an effort to curtail Russia’s access to Western technology as it seeks to tap new Arctic, deep sea and shale oil reserves. The goal was not to inhibit current oil production but to cloud Russia’s energy future.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this. Back in May, we looked at this very strategy as a way for Europe to hit Russia where it hurts—namely, the energy sector—without unduly endangering its own energy security.Rebuffed by the West, Russia will undoubtedly look east toward China. But while China certainly has the demand for Russian hydrocarbons, and plenty of money to invest in Russian shale projects, it lacks the know-how to unlock Siberian shale plays in the ways that America has tapped its own reserves. As the CFR’s energy expert Michael Levi told the NYT, “The biggest edge that Western energy companies still have is their technological edge—that’s why these sanctions have the potential to have significant impact…. Chinese companies can’t step in and provide shale technology where U.S. companies are blocked. They can provide capital; they can provide people. They can’t fill in on the technology front.”Still, it isn’t hard to imagine a difficult winter ahead for many European countries, some of which rely on Russia for 100 percent of their gas. And we can’t help but note that with these sanctions targeting future shale plays, Europe is depriving Russia of an option it has been unwilling to explore. If Putin were “sanctioning” Germany, he would impose mandatory fracking.