Warfare can take many different guises: conventional, unconventional, nuclear, economic, diplomatic, energy, undeclared. But the most successful wars are the ones that needn’t be fought with arms. Throughout History, many nations have tried to avoid the human and economic calamities caused by conflict. An efficient way to achieve this is by turning a potential adversary into a dependent. The United States did this with Japan following the Second World War. What previously was a regional superpower that had managed to conquer most of the Far East and the Pacific Ocean was turned into an obedient ally. It took two atomic bombs, thousands of lives, and countless dollars to achieve this aim. But now America and Japan share common interests and will fight for the same objectives in the Far East.
Quite reasonably, Russia is doing the same in Europe. Bereft of its past buffer zones and the safety that they provided, Russia is vying to be Europe’s chief energy provider. By doing so, Moscow seeks to avoid or minimize the risk of armed warfare. The Russian government satisfyingly watches Europe’s—and especially Germany’s—increasing energy dependence on Russian natural gas. The pipeline, traversing land and sea, has become a lucrative substitute to armed coercion. Currently, Russia pumps 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas into Europe per year. A proposed extension of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will skyrocket that number to 3.9 trillion cubic feet—a quarter of Europe’s energy needs.
Add to that America’s increasingly irresponsible foreign policy, and Russia, despite its ceaseless assaults on democracy, free speech, and human rights around the globe, gains momentum. And when the next crisis emerges, Russia might have a very real leverage on European foreign policy.