Over the last hundred years, oil and gas have often been the cause of numerous conflicts and wars. They have given rise to ad hoc strategies to seize energy deposits or prevent adversaries from gaining control of a vital resource to industrial nations and modern armies. And more than once, invader countries have learned by their own bitter experience that the price they have to pay for capturing oil and gas may be much higher than their value.
The countries involved in World War I became powerful because of the coal and iron ore extracted from their territories. And the growth of German power in the first half of the previous century is a prime example. However, the development of fuel oil turbines onboard ships and internal combustion engines completely shuffled all the cards. The oil age, followed by the gas rush, completely consumed the minds of the Western aristocracy in the twentieth century and was a determining factor in unleashing many wars and armed conflicts.
Thus, an immediate catalyst for the defeat of Japanese militarism was the oil embargo imposed in August 1941 by the United States and Europe in connection with Japan’s war in China and its occupation of French Indochina. Tokyo thought that an attack on America would give Japan access to unlimited oil reserves, but instead, the war led to the collapse of the empire.
The German attempt to defeat the Soviet Union in a blitzkrieg failed already in the summer of 1942 when Hitler concentrated his best divisions in southern Russia to direct them to the rich oil fields in the Caucasus to execute the Case Blue Plan. However, the Nazis failed to seize the oil fields near Grozny and Baku. For six months, German troops routed towards the Caucasus, retreated across the front. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 German soldiers and officers surrendered in Stalingrad, a turning point in World War II. As a result, dreams of oil ended in the collapse of Hitler’s “steel dream.”
1980-1988 Iranian-Iraqi war lasted eight long bloody years and led to the weakening and demoralization of both countries. Frustrated by the stalemate in land operations, both countries tried to strike their enemies with “oil” strikes at sea. But neither of the warring parties managed to defeat the enemy or to get them to surrender. However, this war had one crucial outcome: it led to direct US military action against Iran after US warships began escorting merchant ships in the Persian Gulf, and US warships, aircraft, and Navy seals destroyed Iranian ships and naval bases.
However, the US-Iraqi story did not begin in 2003 but earlier, being basically the story of a battle for oil. After World War I, Iraq, which was part of the defeated Ottoman Empire, was occupied by Britain. All oil wealth of the country was divided between England, France, and the USA. But many years later, in 1968, after the coup d’etat in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein came to power and soon nationalized all the oil, which provoked the armed intervention of the USA and the West against this country.
For American leaders and many others throughout history, the price of oil and gas has become much higher than they anticipated. The last Iraq war alone cost a trillion dollars, took a massive toll on lives, causing unjustifiable casualties, including 8 thousand American military, more than 50 thousand Iraqi police officers, and almost 200 thousand civilians. The total loss is almost a third of a million people!
The development of international relations and the world economy in recent decades demonstrates, on the one hand, Germany’s will to take the lead in Europe, and on the other hand, the active reluctance of Washington and London to give any advantage to Berlin in the European Union and the world order in general. These contradictions have considerably worsened in recent years when Germany began to strengthen its cooperation with Russia and the struggle to possess the European gas hub. In 2016, George Friedman, chairman of Stratfor, the private intelligence publishing and consulting firm which some call The Shadow CIA, said in an interview with a German publication about the attitude of the “Collective West” to such an alliance between Germany and Russia: “There is not a single country in Europe that supports such an alliance. Poland and France, for example, are fiercely opposed to such an alliance. The rapprochement between Russia and Germany is terror and fear for Europe.” And, of course, Friedman named the primary opponent of such rapprochement – the United States of America. Then, during a speech in Chicago, Friedman explicitly said that “Washington’s primary goal for centuries has been to stop a possible rapprochement between Russia and Germany and to prevent the creation of a coalition between the named countries.” According to Friedman, Washington operates on the principle of “divide and conquer.” The equity of the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany), Friedman stressed, invariably gravitates toward integration with the natural and human resources of the Russian Federation. But America is trying to prevent this by all means. Such an alliance would mean that the US would lose its influence in the EU.
What industrial and military might the Germans were capable of became clear in the 1930s through 1940s. The United States occupied Germany after World War II and to this day retains more than a hundred of its military infrastructure facilities on German territory. It has also been taken over by Washington by tying the German economy to the American market. The euro has been linked to the dollar, giving the US Federal Reserve the ability to raise the refinancing rate at any time and bring down the economy of Germany and the entire EU.
Nevertheless, Chancellor Merkel has actively sought independence from Washington in recent years, defending Nord Stream and then Nord Stream 2, despite intense pressure from Washington and its EU neighbors. At the same time, both Washington and London were well aware that this gas pipeline would increase the competitiveness and energy independence of the German economy and enable Berlin to exert more significant influence on the neighboring countries.
It should be stressed that Nord Stream 2 is the German pipeline in which this country is most interested, even though Merkel assures that it is a “pan-European project” because most of Europe will receive gas from it. Therefore, Germany will take all the transit revenues from Ukraine and become a gas hub for the entire continent. This will enable Germany to supply gas to the whole country, supplying to all categories of consumers, which will have a substantial economic impact. In addition, Germany will become the guarantor of energy security in Europe, giving it enormous political power and pursuing a much more independent policy, less dependent on its main Western allies.
The fact that the European Union depends on Russian gas is undeniable. According to Eurostat, the block consumed 394 billion cubic meters of gas in 2020. Of this, 43% was imported from Russia, and only 13% was produced in the EU. And this situation cannot be changed by any US attempts to limit Germany’s role in Europe, including the use of Ukraine as an active lever in such a confrontation between Washington and Russia and Berlin.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.