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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day": Subsidize Ukraine Through the Pain? And Maybe the EU, Too?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day" (, Thomas Friedman begins:

"SO the latest news is that President Vladimir Putin of Russia has threatened to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev doesn’t pay its overdue bill, and, by the way, Ukraine’s pipelines are the transit route for 15 percent of gas consumption for Europe. If I’m actually rooting for Putin to go ahead and shut off the gas, does that make me a bad guy?

Because that is what I’m rooting for, and I’d be happy to subsidize Ukraine through the pain. Because such an oil shock, though disruptive in the short run, could have the same long-term impact as the 1973 Arab oil embargo — only more so. That 1973 embargo led to the first auto mileage standards in America and propelled the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries. A Putin embargo today would be even more valuable because it would happen at a time when the solar, wind, natural gas and energy efficiency industries are all poised to take off and scale. So Vladimir, do us all a favor, get crazy, shut off the oil and gas to Ukraine and, even better, to all of Europe. Embargo! You’ll have a great day, and the rest of the planet will have a great century."

Friedman would be happy to subsidize Ukraine through the pain? With whose money? Or maybe the US government should just print some more, thereby adding to the national debt, which now exceeds $17.5 trillion.

And after subsidizing Ukraine through the pain, maybe Friedman would also care to throw cash at Europe, which is only now beginning to emerge from a prolonged recession. Unfortunately, the problem does not only involve Russian natural gas. Regarding European dependence on Russian energy sources, the EU tells us (

"The origin of EU-27 energy imports has changed somewhat in recent years, as Russia has maintained its position as the main supplier of crude oil and natural gas and emerged as the leading supplier of hard coal. In 2010, some 34.5% of the EU-27’s imports of crude oil were from Russia; this was the highest share recorded between 2002 and 2010 having fallen to a temporary low of 31.4% in 2008. Russia became the principal supplier of hard coal in 2006, overtaking South Africa, having overtaken Australia in 2004 and Colombia in 2002; Russia’s share of EU-27 hard coal imports rose from 13.1% in 2002 to 30.2% by 2009, before falling somewhat in 2010 to 27.1%. Despite this contraction, Russia remained the primary source of hard coal imports into the EU in 2010 and its share was well ahead of the next highest, recorded by Colombia (20.2%). By contrast, Russia’s share of EU-27 imports of natural gas declined from 45.1% to 31.8% between 2003 and 2010, while Qatar’s share rose from less than 1% to 8.6%."

Sever the EU overnight from Russian energy sources? It's not nearly as simple as would-be alternative energy expert Friedman would have you believe, unless the EU can rely upon Tom's endless supply of wind.


  1. For how much of what Russia supplies could Israel and other sources compensate? The point, though unrealistic in its time-line (stop, cold turkey) is that the world must transition away with greater zeal.

  2. Of course Friedman and the NYT wouldn't come up with the simplest and most immediate solution of all - subsidizing a pipeline between Israel's Leviathan and Tamar gas fields to Europe through Turkey. No, that would put Israel in a position of power and that's something the NYT editorial board were given strict instructions not to do. Better to print more money, raise taxes and wait a few years for a multitude of Solyndra copycats to pull the same trick twice before cashing in. Russians know how to survive cold winters as witnessed during the tragic Siege of Leningrad in 1941-1942. I doubt if today's Europeans will have the same staying power as the Russians this winter while they're waiting for wind turbines and solar panels to arrive from Washington. Putin may be an atheist, but he's a big believer in Karma.

  3. Kramer and Newman had the Ukraine situation figured out long ago.