Yevgenia Belorusets (Kyiv, 1980) works as an artist and as editor of "Prostory", a journal for literature, art, and politics. Her multidisciplinary approach to prose and photographs is mirrored in the narratives alluded to in the series “Modern Animal”, a black and white portraiture of structures, language cliches, and poetics of alienation of species. Belorusets focuses on conversations with those who can’t be heard or seen.
Wars, like other great crises, often have a similar effect on those not directly affected by them: they seem to support whatever positions people have held before, to increase convictions that predate the current escalation. Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against the people of Ukraine is no exception.
Western military hawks see their conviction reinforced that the West‘s, especially Europe’s, reliance on diplomacy and trade as a means of sustaining peace has been debunked and proven naive. Fans of nuclear power see evidence for their long-held conviction that Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear power plants was a mistake. And everybody who has correctly been warning that Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns, election meddling and influence operations in western countries were only a precursor to more nefarious actions has been proven right.
The most glaring of takeaways from Putin’s aggression and the originally timid, and still pained response of western nations, most of all Germany’s, is a different and very simple one, however: the fact that most European countries depend on buying gas and oil from a country that they are at the same time trying to punish with severe economic sanctions is more than embarrassing. It’s disastrous. And it could have been avoided.
The fact that dependency on fossil fuels from autocratic regimes is a geopolitical problem cannot possibly have escaped the notice of western politicians. During both Iraq wars, protesters in Germany and elsewhere marched through the streets shouting „no blood for oil!“ To no avail, of course. Many of the wars fought over the last few decades arguably had at least a component of being about fossil fuel supply. And the suppliers of oil and gas have not, as some might have hoped, used their earnings to modernize and democratize their countries. To the contrary: some, like Russia, have clearly moved into the opposite direction.
Germany's dependency is so massive that even the Greens are hesitating to stop Russian fossil fuel imports before Putin himself decides to.
The global economy is, to this day, hooked on commodities provided by autocrats, by countries who wage wars against their neighbors and suppress any opposition or dissent within their own borders. The largest exporters of oil in the world are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait and Iraq – none of which qualify as models for freedom, equal rights and democracy. For the rest of the world to still be so massively dependent on countries like these is a collective political failure of massive proportions.
The situation is slightly different when it comes to natural gas – the only autocracies amongst the top exporting countries are Qatar and Russia. The top five also include the United States, Norway and Australia. But Russia’s exports dwarf all others – and the European Union has so far been getting almost half of its total supply of natural gas from Russia.