Operation Hide Behind Orban
As long as Landlocked East Europe doesn't commit economic suicide, it's our fault that Royal Dutch Shell is keep making a profit on Putin's oil.
I never subscribed to the model offered by Jared Diamond’s hindsight-crippled, unexceptionalist masterpiece, Guns, Germs, and Steel: there must have been a reason why tiny, Western European countries took over the globe at one point other than random chance. While I don’t have a complete alternative theory to explain the success of colonization, one prerequisite seems to be a very thick skin.
“Looking at imports by member country, we see that the Netherlands, Germany and Poland bought the most Russian oil. These three countries import a total of two million barrels per day, 55% of EU imports. For all this, they pay $157 million a day, which means that these countries account for more than half of the EU's oil payments to Russia.”
Slavs where never really good at this game, Poland’s - so far economically - suicidal eagerness to lead the bridge burning towards Moscow, poking the bear butt naked while the West is encouraging them from a distance is a prime example. Our betters taking a far more cautious stance while cheering those crazy Slavs on to be the whip further proves that there’s a deeper cultural rift between East and West than what a Cold War worth of temporary separation would merit.
While Hungarians disagree with Poland in the handling of this shared conflict on our Eastern border, even the most Russophile voices don’t question the Poles’ honesty: they’re not bluffing, they’re not playing 4D chess, they’re not being brave on someone else’s expense — despite our near complete disagreement, this is viewed by us as admirable. Admiration with a bit of a head shake, like watching your friend run across the highway, blindfolded.
Which brings us to today’s topic: a common, unanimous EU embargo on Russian oil imports. Either we all do it, or nobody does and may Allah forgive the few - or one - who dares to veto this idea. We’re all in this together, you see, with a few footnotes on the differing severity per member state, but more on that later.
The Action Slavs’ - lead by the Poles - brave example highlights the first and fundamental problem with this approach: nothing stops the individual states to embargo Russian oil, today, if they wish to do so. If feeding Vladimir Hitler with hard currency is such a moral burden, the Germans and the Dutch can close their ports to tankers right now. Nobody, literally nobody can force it on them to keep buying Russian oil. Hungary won’t object if they decide to do so, we’re not the objecting type when sovereign nation states make their own decisions, whether we think it’s good or bad.
I’m not trying to paint Western Europe regarding the Russo-Ukranian war as evil, at least not in a cartoon villain way: this war wasn’t their making, they’re not the ones fanning the flames, and if their elites - political, economical and industrial - could slam on a “STOP WAR” button that ends it immediately, they 100% would. Not because they’re a bunch of hippies, they don’t really care about what Slavs do to each other any more than they care about Eritreans, if that place still exists. This war is bad for business, so bad that it’s hard to find any upsides to it. One might be the influx of millions of refugees that can easily assimilate to the East European strata of the Western labor force and start picking vegetables next week, but those people were fleeing Ukraine by the millions in peacetime anyway, they would have trickled in eventually.
When Yugoslavia went up in flames with an ethnic cleansing frenzy on all sides, the rest of Europe was busy enjoying the trash that we, today, collectively remember as “The 90s”. No DJ dared to follow up Macarena with a lecture about some genocide happening in Balkania, even if it was next door, as that horror had little effect on the continent as a whole. Unlike then, Europe now is already paying a huge price, and should the oil embargo be enacted, it will have drastic effects on the economy, and using the Yellow Vests as an indicator, on social stability as well. It’s understandable why their amped up rhetoric is yet to be followed by individual action.
I so want to go into that bar and beat that Russian up, seriously, just like all of you guys, right? Right? Don’t hold me back, I want to fight him! (No one’s holding anyone back, door is wide open).
Insisting on an unanimous decision offers Western countries a way out of taking individual action: as long as there’s at least one member state that would be severely affected by this, let them be the obstacle and feign outrage at the dissenter for preventing such a great idea from becoming reality.
Operation Hide Behind Orban, or more precisely, hide behing the landlocked East European trio, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary. (We can also include Austria, but they have a way of becoming invisibly small when shit starts to fly around).
The Czechs and the Slovakians neither have the habit, the mood or the government to stand up to Brussels right now. We do, so that leaves Strong Man Orban as the sole break on lunacy, a break that most members would like to engage, despite what they claim.
“the countries of the region, which includes Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic (i.e. excluding Poland), import a total of just under 400,000 barrels of oil a day, worth roughly $30 million. This represents only 5.6 per cent of total Russian oil exports and roughly ten per cent of Russian oil imports into the EU.”
Fighting the Russian in the bar will definitely give the Westerners a few injuries, it will cost them some, but on Sunday they’ll skip town leaving us behind to deal with the consequences, starting with being fired from our jobs on Monday. Russia, when it comes to energy, is our boss. It would be nice to be self-employed, or to have another place to work for, but it is what it is.
The harsh geopolitical reality that - among many catastrophes that befall on East Europe throughout history - made us end up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain at Yalta also dictates our current energy mix: it’s mostly pipelines coming from the East.
It’s not a splendid arrangement, but we neither have the sea ports nor the extra cash to break the habit. We did start make moves in the last decade, Hungary has a common LNG project with Croatia, and we continued to seek alternative sources, somewhat as a leverage when we have to - emphasis on have to - make the next round of deal with Russia. You need a few credible job offers in your pocket before you visit your current boss to ask for a raise, but let’s be honest, Landlocked East Europe never really had the liberty to find a real alternative, it’s either this job or unemployment, and the boss knows. As of 2022, 90% of Hungary’s oil and 80% of its natural gas comes from Russia.
The bluff of leaving Putin at the bargaining table never had to be called, and now it would be even less credible, as demand is about to skyrocket for alternative sources continent-wide, where we would have to compete with nations that have more favorable geography and deeper pockets. It would be suicidal.
We already had a dry run of what it would feel like to have Russian resources cut off, in the winter of 2009 (in short: natural gas stopped coming from Ukraine), so we were eager to diversify sources in the 2010s, but spending the better part of the decade coming out of insolvency (we eventually did), global economic boom or not, we lacked the resources to find a real alternative to energy so competitive (cheap) that even Germany couldn’t resist it (and if they didn’t, why should we?). One attempt was South Stream: it wouldn’t have freed us from Russia, but it would have helped us to get rid of one liability, Ukraine.
Ultimately it was prevented by the EU on the grounds of “democracy” and “f*ck P*t*n” in 2014, by exerting pressure on the poorest
colonies states in the EU, like Bulgaria. This is not a conspiracy theory, it was done in the open and celebrated as a triumph.
Now, Ukraine as a liability, and a pipeline to bypass it: sounds a bit harsh? No more harsh than the logic Berlin followed when they greenlit the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in 2015 to do just that. It was, unlike it’s southern counterpart, allowed to be built.
One allowed, the other denied. Thick skin, and the difference between colonizers and colonized. But wait, Germany wasn’t a colonial superpower! Well, they had been late to the game but they were just as eager to make up for it as another late comer, Japan. Besides, when Medvedev called for the Nord Stream 2 photo op, the Dutch (as legit a former colonial power as it gets) sent their prime minister:
We’re not Bulgarians lol
Putin had the good sense not to piss China off by launching the war before the winter olympics were over. But the Russians also waited until Nord Stream 2 was complete enough that the only thing remaining was the stamp of approval on the German side’s paperwork. At the time of this post, Scholz is yet to ceremoniously pour concrete into the pipeline at the Western end, and until he does so, NS2 is still an option. All that fierce rhetoric aside, Germany so far is keeping this option, just in case.
Going back to South Stream, because of the Western fuckery that spoiled the construction of this alternative route, the whole oil and natural gas embargo gets another shade of subtlety for the Landlocked Eastern European states: their pipelines not only come from Russia, but they also go through Ukraine. If shutting the transit down was to help Ukraine, Kiev could have done it long ago itself, but they’re still operational, as of this post. Why don’t they do it, unilaterally? Because they get a transit fee and they still get energy themselves; shutting down the pipelines that feed East Europe would hurt Ukraine more than it would hurt the Russians. On the other hand, Germany and the Netherlands stopping tanker shipsfrom entering their ports would not hurt Ukraine one bit.
“a significant proportion of Russia's crude oil exports to the EU, around 80 percent, come by tanker and only 20 percent by pipeline. If refined oil is included, the share of oil arriving by tanker is even higher”
So, what are the Western countries waiting for? Us? They can go ahead! Lead by example and stop trying to hide behind our backs! Learn some courage from the Poles, may God have mercy on them.
Cover: Russian oil shipments by tankers since the war started, via FT
All the quotes in the post are from The EU is forcing the oil embargo on Eastern members to find a scapegoat by Zoltán Dénes
So long as such internal decisions are not aimed at abusing the local Hungarian minority, but in that case the mother state’s advocacy is understandable and expected, unless Hungary is happened to be ruled by an elite that’s indifferent to our diaspora. In that case no one in the World will advocate for them, been there, but that’s a rabbit hole for another day.
Remember that by the end of the century in which they started and lost two world wars, they were one of the riches nations on Earth, and today 9 out of 10 people outside Austria would tell you that Hitler was German. Inside Austria it’s 10 out of 10. Based on this, they will somehow come out of this mess with a profit, I don’t see how, but they will.
Die Ukraine dreht am Gashahn
”Years ago, the EU became a victim of Ukrainian-Russian gas wars. That also cost Ukraine the trust of the West (one consequence was the construction of Nord Stream 2), which should not be forgotten in Kyiv.”
EU countries have bought €44bn of Russian energy since the invasion of Ukraine began.
“Analysts from CREA also said they tracked fossil fuel deliveries to facilities or ships linked to major oil companies including ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, Repsol and BP, while a quarter of Russia’s fossil fuel shipments arrived in ports located in the Netherlands, Italy, Poland and Belgium.”