Today (April 1) Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order stipulating that all Russian gas must now be purchased using Rubles. So far European countries are refusing to do so.
The details seems much more complicated than the seeming Russian ultimatum might suggest however. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that contracts currently in place stipulate that all gas is to be paid for in Euros. It is also being reported that the Chancellor held a phone call on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart in which Putin stated that nothing will change for European partners.
This move is in response to most democratic countries essentially closing Russia out of the global market. It also comes as Russia is looking increasingly desperate in its invasion of Ukraine, with many saying that they are losing ground they had previously gained and a seeming increase in the indiscriminate nature of its bombings in places like Mariupol.
It also seems that America is attempting to stem at least some of the pain that may result from Russia’s move, and to prevent the need to buy Russian gas more generally. Yesterday, President Biden released 180 million barrels of oil from the US strategic reserves. Though it is likely that a large portion of this will go directly to the American market.
European leaders are still discussing the best path forward for their respective countries and the European Union, in light of Putin seemingly being bent on destroying the current world order. Europeans have discussed increasing the use of renewable energy, though this takes time (depending on the technology, sometimes years).
There have also been talks about reducing energy use to conserve, this will likely affect average people much more than industry and thus may not be the most popular route. This is especially true because current temperatures in Northern Europe are still down around 0°C.
To what degree people are expected to sacrifice, and to what degree they are willing to, will be seen in the coming days. Hopefully democratic countries around the world will seize upon this moment to push for greater energy independence and cooperation that doesn’t rely on authoritarian nations. Without preparation and a clear path, it is only a matter of time before democratic nations once again find themselves negotiating with authoritarian madmen.