Western media continue to cover the war in Ukraine, and now they report that Vladimir Putin is losing allies in Latin America (before that, American politicians specially visited Venezuela for negotiations).
However, Europe is not ready to give up Russian gas, although the US may do so unilaterally. But Russians are already feeling the effects of sanctions and isolation, and the Kremlin has no chance of winning the war.
Britain and Poland are looking for ways to help Ukraine so as not to provoke a large-scale NATO-Russia war. At the same time, the decision to supply aircraft to Ukraine was assigned to Polish President Andrzej Duda, warning that he could become the next target of the Kremlin.
has compiled an up-to-date overview of what the European and American media are reporting, covering 12 days of an active Russian invasion.
Putin's threat to close gas pipeline and Europe’s fears
According to the BBC, Russia has stated it could close its main gas pipeline to Germany if the West imposes a ban on the supply of Russian oil.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak stated:
"Waiver of Russian oil will lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market."
As a result, prices could more than double to $300 per barrel, the Kremlin politician believes.
The US is considering a potential ban with allies as a way to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. But Germany and the Netherlands rejected this plan as early as March 7th.
The EU gets about 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia, and has no easy substitutes in case supply disruptions.
Though such disruptions would not directly affect the UK, as it imports less than 5% of its gas from Russia, it will be affected by higher prices on world markets as demand in Europe increases.
In a speech on Russian state TV, Novak said:
"It is impossible to quickly find a replacement for Russian oil on the European market. This will take years, and it will still be much more expensive for European consumers. Ultimately, they will suffer the most from this outcome."
Nord Streams: It is not that easy to give up oil and gas
Pointing to Germany's February 2022 decision to freeze Nord Stream 2 certification, the Russian prime minister added that the oil embargo could trigger retaliatory measures.
"We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline," he said.
Russia is the world's second largest gas producer and third largest oil exporter, and any move to sanction its energy industry would severely damage its own economy.
Nathan Piper, head of oil and gas research at Investec, said although imposing sanctions on Russia's oil and gas exports was attractive, "practically it is challenging".
"The question is now whether US and European leaders are prepared to endure high oil and gas prices to add energy exports to the sanctions list," he told the BBC.
What will happen to oil and gas prices
Analysts at Capital Economics predict that oil prices could rise to $160 a barrel if the West imposes sanctions on Russian exports, but David Oxley, senior economist at the consultancy, says disruptions to Russian gas supplies will hit countries harder, describing it as a "completely different kettle of fish."
He said energy intensive industries across Europe could be hit, because "vast swathes of heavy industry being switched off" as it is much harder finding replacement gas suppliers compared with oil.
According to him, EU countries, such as Germany, heavily dependent on Russian gas could switch from gas to coal, but that would run counter to the bloc's climate ambitions and not be a long-term solution.
Energy markets have been extremely volatile over the past week, and understandably so. There are genuine fears that oil and gas supplies from Russia could be cut off or disrupted.
Gas pipeline closure is not really believed in
However, reaction to Russia's suggestion that it could shut down a major gas pipeline, depriving northern Europe of much of its gas supply, has been pretty muted so far.
There are several reasons for this. First, Russia threatens to cut off gas exports if the West continues to ban Russian oil.
But despite US pressure, such a ban is unlikely. European leaders have already condemned the idea, so the Russian counter-threat carries relatively little weight.
Also important is the fact that Russia still earns huge amounts daily selling oil and gas to Europe to help finance its war.
Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported the US could agree to impose an embargo without its allies, even though it gets only about 3% of its oil from Russia.
However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismissed the idea of a wider ban, saying that Europe "deliberately exempted" Russian energy from sanctions because, at the moment, its supply could not be secured "in any other way."
Over time, European powers pledged to phase out Russian hydrocarbons, and some Western companies boycotted Russian supplies or pledged to sell their stakes in Russian energy companies.
The prime minister of the Russian Federation, in turn, acknowledged that Russian companies have already felt pressure from the United States and Europe, seeking to reduce their dependence on Russian energy resources. Moscow is also concerned about a possible embargo on Russian oil and its phasing out.
NATO has increased its presence in the East, but is trying to contain a big war
Sky News quoted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as saying the organization has "significantly increased" its presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to the crisis.
He added that NATO is responsible for ensuring that the conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine and does not escalate.
"We will defend every inch of our allied territory," he added.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked the Alliance to impose a no-fly zone over the country, but NATO refused to do so in an attempt to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
The outlet also reports that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas today.
During the joint briefing, Kallas reiterated the need for joint support for Ukraine, which was emphasized by the West from the very beginning of the invasion.
However, she warned:
"We need to be prepared for the worst, the worst is yet to come."
She called for isolating Russia from the free world and said that cryptocurrencies need to be limited in order to close the "loopholes" in the sanctions.
"We will continue to find new tools in our toolbox until Putin's war machine is paralyzed," Kallas said.
Russia calls on US for Cold War peace
Blinken stated that "President Putin is turning Russia into an outcast," adding that Russians are already feeling the consequences of this.
Sky News quoted the Russian news agency Interfax as having released a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry that it is open to honest and mutually respectful dialogue with the United States.
The message to the States says that the two countries must return to the principle of "peaceful coexistence", as during the Cold War.
It also says that there remains hope for the restoration of normal relations between the two countries.
Poland was told to decide for itself
The Times quotes British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace as saying Britain and NATO will support Poland regardless of whether it decides to transfer MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, warning that Russia could attack the country as a result.
The United States called on Poland to supply Soviet aircraft to Ukrainian pilots, offering to replace them with American aircraft.
Wallace warned that this could provoke a "blowback" against the Polish people if the country went ahead with the deal.
Wallace noted in an interview with Sky News:
"Poland will understand that the choices it makes will not only directly help Ukraine, which is a good thing, but also may bring them into direct line of fire from countries such as Russia or Belarus."
This is really a big responsibility on the shoulders of the President of Poland and, indeed, the Minister of Defense of the country, he stressed.
"So it’s not for me to second-guess their choice. But it is for me as a fellow Nato member to say I will stand by Poland," Wallace assured.
Britain: Ukraine needs more deadly weapons
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also acknowledged Ukraine's need for lethal weapons, adding that his country must "tread a very fine line" in helping Kyiv without provoking a wider war in Europe or putting London at risk.
He noted that countries should increase the supply of lethal aid to Ukraine, whether it be anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft systems, or other weapons.
Wallace added that he wished the UK could do more, but he is also acutely aware:
"President Putin seems to have no limit to the humanitarian grief and murder he can inflict on a country and we have to make sure we calibrate our response correctly".
Wallace is confident that it will take decades for the Kremlin to occupy Ukraine.
In an interview with Times Radio, he stressed that hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers would have to be permanently based in the country to achieve Putin's goal, and the flaw in the whole plan was the assumption that the Ukrainian people were there waiting for them.
The West makes choice: Fight Putin now or later
The Times also quotes General Sir Chris Deverell, who was in charge of military intelligence, cybersecurity and special forces as commander of the Joint Forces Command until 2019 when he retired.
He stated that a no-fly zone over Ukraine might be necessary as the West faces a choice: fight Putin now or later.
When Wallace was asked if he agreed with this view, the Minister replied that he did not, adding:
"Triggering a war with a country that has, you know, well over 2,000 nuclear warheads and still has a formidable set of armed forces would not be a wise thing to do at this moment in time."
He also expressed confidence that there would be no such battle, because after the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin’s forces would be exhausted:
"Putin has become a spent force in the world and, his army is done, he is done".
Putin loses Latin-American allies
Deutsche Welle reports that Putin is losing allies in Latin America after the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia's increased presence politically in Latin America is not paying off politically. Most countries have condemned the invasion of Ukraine, and few old Soviet allies support President Vladimir Putin.
The outlet notes that Latin America was taken by surprise by the war in Ukraine. Official reactions varied from unequivocal condemnation from Colombia, Chile, and Guatemala to solidarity with Putin from Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela.
Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, and Mexico, currently chairing the UN Security Council, have issued calls for a ceasefire and negotiations.
Argentine foreign policy expert Juan Gabriel Tokatlian described the region's reaction as "dramatic fragmentation".
"There was no coordination," Tokatlian, deputy director of the University of Torcuato Di Tello in Buenos Aires, said.
He noted that the Organization of American States had prepared a joint statement, adding, however, that many countries, including Uruguay, Jamaica, Argentina, and Brazil, refrained from signing it.
Solidarity with Putin evaporates
Brazil's reaction was strange: President Jair Bolsonaro first declared himself "neutral" but was then reined in by Vice President General Hamilton Murao. Murao condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and called for military support for Kyiv. Meanwhile, Brazil's UN ambassador stated that Russia had "crossed the red line."
Interestingly, just days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Bolsonaro visited Moscow and openly expressed his solidarity with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has offered his country as a gateway for Russian investment in Latin America.
But by March 3, the diplomatic chaos had settled. When the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution calling on Russia to stop its violence against Ukraine and refrain from any threats of a similar nature against another UN member state, most countries in Latin America voted in favor.
Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua abstained. Venezuela criticized the bill but was not allowed to vote because the country had not paid its UN dues.
Peoples of South America supported Ukraine
While dealing with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, violations of international law may not have been the only thing Latin American governments were thinking about.
The fact is that they also have to grapple with public opinion in their countries, the German outlet reports. Photos of bombed-out houses and fleeing civilians flickering across screens for several days provoked demonstrations of solidarity with Ukraine in Latin America.
There are no public opinion polls yet, but the invasions bring back bad memories in Latin America, including those of the US invasion of Panama.
As the Mexico’s Ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuente put it:
"Mexico has been attacked four times in its history and knows very well what that means."
For most residents of the region, Russia is a distant, foreign country. Putin's support is limited to a small but very active group of left-wing intellectuals on social media.
Sanctions to hit Latin America
However, Russia remains a strategically important partner for Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela—Russia helps these countries bypass US and European sanctions. Venezuela is almost entirely dependent on Russia for wheat imports.
As a result, the region is wary of sanctions against Russia. NATO partner country Colombia is in favor of sanctions, while Mexico and Brazil are against. Brazil has an important reason to lift the sanctions—it imports 69% of its fertilizer supplies from Russia.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador opposes the policy of sanctions and has repeatedly condemned the US embargo against Cuba. However, Mexico is under significant pressure from its free trade partner, the United States it conducts almost 90% of its foreign trade with.
Sanctions are the sword of Damocles hanging over another country in the region, El Salvador. The country declared bitcoin the official currency in 2021.
James Bosworth, editor of the Latin America Risk Report, warned that any financial sector employee who continued to use Russian money could be subject to sanctions. According to him, there is a very real risk that Russia will transfer money through these bonds.
However, Latin America's reaction is likely to sober Putin after the Kremlin stepped up its presence in the region in recent years, supplying arms to Venezuela, opening correspondent offices for Russia's agency Sputnik and news channel RT, supplying a vaccine during the coronavirus pandemic, multi-million dollar loans to Cuba, and military exercises with Venezuela.
Instead of an afterword. It appears that hope that Europe can give up Russian oil and gas quickly has grown weaker by now. However, sporadic boycotts of European and American companies and the prospect of ditching Russian energy have already worried the Kremlin.
Putin's loss of his Latin allies cannot but rejoice, but the situation in which Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, now finds himself, and the choice that NATO has shifted on to his shoulders without serious security guarantees, once again raises questions about how much the Alliance is currently fulfills the stated goals.
Britain seems to be looking for a way to help Ukraine without unleashing a Third World War, but how long Kyiv will have to wait for its "fine implementation" and how many more lives it will pay for a policy of containment from Western allies is difficult to predict.
The war continues, Europe and the United States are really trying to unite the world against the Kremlin, but still hope that the collapse of Russia and the exhaustion of its army resources will happen before these forces run out in Ukraine. In this situation, we have to hold on and defend ourselves, accepting reality as it is.