The debate over whether to cut Russian oil and gas has focused on issues of moral obligations and economic costs. These discussions are predicated on the assumption that Europe will have continued access to gas supplies so long as it walks a delicate line between supporting Ukraine and provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin.
What is missing is the recognition that Russia has been quietly engineering an energy checkmate that will culminate in the coming winter. The question is not whether the gas will be cut, but on whose terms? In recognizing this dynamic it becomes clear that Europe must cut the gas now—not to punish Putin, but to defend itself.
Putin has worked methodically to develop gas supplies as a strategic weapon, first buying up storage assets in Europe over the last decades, then leaving them empty this past winter. At the start of the invasion, Russian-backed hackers attacked US-based LNG facilities who might provide alternative supplies. Taken together, Russia engineered a position of maximum leverage to deter European support for Ukraine. Only a mild winter and a late invasion prevented Russia from pressing its advantage.