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Ron Wallace, Executive Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and former NEB Board member, has written that there has been a clear divergence between Russian and western countries’ policies on energy over the last 10 years. Western economies set net zero as their target and promoted alternative energy sources. Russia, however, invested in the development of their fossil fuel resource base and the infrastructure necessary to bring it to market. Many of the Russian investors partnered with western companies that were in search of new opportunities to develop oil and gas. Now, according to Wallace, the crisis in Europe has exposed the consequences of those two approaches. And they favour Russia. The net zero objective and the re-alignment that requires have undermined the resilience of western energy supply. At the same time, they have enhanced Russian leverage and finances.

In Wallace’s view, European countries had assumed that Russian gas and oil would offset any limitations of renewable energy and support its further adoption. Now, as European energy consumers are threatened by Russian supply cutbacks, countries are trying to shed that risk. However, the degree of European dependence on Russian energy will not make that possible quickly. In the meantime, continuing purchases of now high-priced Russian oil and gas are financing the country’s war effort in Ukraine.