Euro Cassandra Report
It's unnerving to me, having just come from a Europe stumbling towards the brink of catastrophe, how little attention the continent's massive energy and economic crisis is getting in the US media. Now an analyst says that the EU might need to cough up $1.5 trillion to keep its energy markets from collapsing under margin calls. They're calling this a "Lehman Bros. of the energy industry" -- a reference to the Wall Street investment bank whose failure in 2008 sparked the global economic crisis.
Energy bills for European households will surge by 2 trillion euros ($2 trillion) at their peak early next year, underscoring the need for government intervention, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. utilities analysts.
At their height, energy bills will represent about 15% of Europe’s gross domestic product, the analysts, led by Alberto Gandolfi and Mafalda Pombeiro, wrote in a note dated Sunday.
“In our view, the market continues to underestimate the depth, the breadth and the structural repercussions of the crisis,” they wrote. “We believe these will be even deeper than the 1970s oil crisis.”
If this happens to Europe, don't think for a second that we in the US are going to be okay.
For a sign of how insane European leaders are, listen to the German economics minister, a Green politician (of course) named Robert Habeck, saying that small businesses in Germany might have to stop doing business because there is no power, but gosh, that doesn't mean that they will go bankrupt:
I got that clip from the (subscription-only) Substack of Niccolo Soldo, a Croatian who is simply beside himself with frustration. He writes:
How the fuck does the Economics Minister of one of the world’s most important economies not know about the concept of fixed costs? Businesses have loans to repay, rents that are due every month, and so on. Suspending business sectors from economic activity creates a chain reaction throughout the economy as a whole. Deutsche Bank, for example, is a colossal giant that has been on shaky ground since 2008. Being exposed as it is could lead to its collapse, one that would take down the European Union’s entire financial system, threatening the organization’s very existence.
Soldo posts charts showing that the absence of Russian gas is idling steel plants all over the continent, and driving the cost of chemicals and fertilizers through the roof. Europe is headed toward a catastrophe the likes of which its people haven't seen in decades.
All of this was entirely predictable. The EU leadership had the bright idea that it could wage economic war on Russia with punishing sanctions (I collected many of their hostile quotes here), without Russia retaliating by withholding natural gas from the continent -- which just happens to depend on Russian gas to run its economies. You will recall that Habeck's fellow Green, the German Foreign Minister, recently said that she didn't care how cold the German people got this winter, what really matters to her are the Ukrainians. What kind of crackhead politician believes such things, or says such things? You get a sense, then, of how poorly Europe is led.
I shouldn't have to say it, but I do, because people can't think: to point all of this out is not to be pro-Putin, or pro-Russia. Again and again I say unto you: Russia was wrong to invade Ukraine. But you can't run modern economies on moral outrage, and you can't warm cold European bodies on the hot air of European politicians.
It's not only the Europeans and their entire ruling class (including the media). Look at this deluded remark by a leading liberal journalist, flagged by Michael Brendan Dougherty:
Why is "everything we should care about on the line there"? This is the same kind of blindness, the same kind of hubris, that had most of the US elites convinced that if we don't fight the Islamic terrorist enemy in Iraq, America will be destroyed. How did that work out for us? The United States emerged from its nation-building adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan poorer and weaker. Its proxy war on Russia in Ukraine is going to cause us far more damage, in large part because it's going to wreck Europe economically. And if it wrecks Europe economically, you should not be surprised if out of the ruins emerge governments that are more hostile to the United States. Besides which, as the gimlet-eyed Putin recently observed, the West's economic war on Russia has been of limited success because there is an entire world beyond the boundaries of the West, and it has not joined this anti-Russian crusade.
If the West wanted to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, then we should have done so from a position of strength. But European leaders knew that Russian gas was their Achilles heel. They have known for years that to become dependent on Russian gas would put them at the mercy of Russia in the event of armed conflict. And yet!
Back in March, Hungary's PM Viktor Orban was the only European leader to keep his head. He said then:
I made it clear that we cannot follow the example of the United States. They imposed sanctions on these products yesterday, but this would be an unbearable burden for Hungary to bear. So there is be no question of us joining these sanctions, as we still need gas and oil that comes from Russia.
The roar of "Putin symp!" went up from all the European bien-pensants. But Viktor Orban was right. He also condemned Russia's invasion, but as a democratic leader responsible to his people, he knew that he could not plunge them into poverty and misery for the sake of taking a firm stand against Moscow's foreign adventurism. You can say that Hungary should not have allowed itself to become so dependent on Russian oil and gas, and that would be a fair criticism. But it did, like much of the rest of Europe -- but only Orban grasps the meaning of this relationship.
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The new 1848 is coming upon Europe like a freight train. We are living through the most consequential season since the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall.
UPDATE: This just in:
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