I was raised a pacifist by my dear mother, whom I admire for many reasons. Yes, a case of of turning the other cheek and not raising a gun. In the 1980s, I demonstrated against cruise missiles and bought a T-shirt at Waterloo Square featuring Ronald Reagan in a Nazi uniform, with a mushroom plume in the background and the text: “Ich habe es nicht gewusst.“
After having seen much of the world I now know: T-shirts and demonstrations will not stop dictators. In the current conflict with Russia, too, we have relied too long on reasonableness. Have we paid too little attention to blind lust for power and bizarre fantasies about rebuilding an empire long lost?
The fact is: 40 percent of the gas we use in Europe comes from Russia, as Aafke Eppinga wrote this weekend. And as good and important as the green transition is, we are far from reaching it yet. The fact is that with all those sincere daydreams, we have not taken into account the interests of the parties who have become very rich from a product that we say we want to get rid of. European Commissioner Frans Timmermans did heed that, you say? Definitely, but he failed to mention the solution. Economic sanctions? Don’t make Putin laugh. For the time being, we desperately need him.
Just like in that earlier Cold War, it will take a lot more persuasion now to make it clear to the Russians (and Saudis) that we are going to switch to alternative energy sources no matter what. With or without them. Those in favor of an accelerated transition to sustainable energy must be prepared for hardcore power politics and – ultimately – the rattling of sabres. Because – following Timmerman’s logic – this is essentially an energy war.
Whereas at the time with the peace movement I was keen to believe that with good intentions we could unite the world, I am no longer so naive. You cannot close down nuclear, coal, or gas power plants in the hope that an alternative will materialize. Because that is what has happened in recent years. That is not only naive, it is staggeringly irresponsible.
Our governments need to move quickly on the Energy Outbreak Management Team that Maarten Steinbuch advocated on our platform this past week. We need to – sorry mom – arm ourselves extremely quickly, because the other side did that a long time ago.
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