The coming energy storm

Europe may be grappling with record-breaking heat, but it’s what happens when temperatures drop this winter that has policymakers worried. This morning, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen urged the continent to be “proactive” when she announced a plan to cut gas consumption by 15 percent between now and next spring. “Putin is blackmailing us,” she said in a blunt assessment of the messy confluence of geopolitics and energy policy that has left some of the world’s most advanced economies in such a vulnerable position.

Europe’s energy worst-case scenario is not some remote nightmare but an imminent possibility. Yesterday, Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom sent a force majeure letter to its European clients stating that it could not guarantee supply. Tomorrow marks the end of a scheduled ten-day maintenance pause on Nord Stream 1, the main pipeline supplying Russian gas to Europe. The question is whether Vladimir Putin may find an excuse to keep it turned off. Even if the Russian leader stops short of that step, he appears to be signaling constrained supply. And whatever happens tomorrow, there should be no illusions over the massive leverage Russia has over Europe in general, and Germany in particular.

For a sense of the extent of that leverage, consider Deutsche Bank’s recent prediction that Germans may resort to burning wood to heat their homes this winter. Or consider that EU technocrats want to use emergency powers to impose mandatory gas rationing on member states.

I suppose some in the Biden administration might look at Europe and take some comfort in just how much worse their energy woes appear than America’s. But viewed from Washington, Europe’s energy emergency amounts to a colossal test of the strength of Western solidarity over Ukraine. It is, therefore, a major threat to the diplomatic unity that Biden has prioritized in his approach to the conflict.

Adding to these pressures is the gloomy political and economic outlook at home. How high a price do Americans really want to pay to assist Ukraine? Biden has spent months overstating the relationship between the conflict and inflation. That may have given him an answer to difficult questions this spring, but it has probably made Americans less patient with his approach to the war. Indeed, a recent CNN poll finds that a majority of Americans now disapprove of his handling of the crisis.

As the costs of the ongoing conflict are felt in Europe, Biden’s “whatever it takes” approach will surely grow harder to sustain, while the case for a diplomatic solution will grow more compelling. And an administration vague about what its goals are in the conflict will have to clarify what it is they hope achieve or risk a collapse in the alliance which stands behind Ukraine.

But the knock-on effects of Europe’s energy problems will not be limited to the conflict in Ukraine. High prices and energy scarcity are a combustible combination — and the results are not likely to be pretty, whichever side of the Atlantic you’re on.

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Trump’s Maryland win

Donald Trump has chalked up a primary win in Maryland, where his preferred candidate for governor, Dan Cox, comprehensively defeated Kelly Schulz, who had the endorsement of the moderate outgoing governor Larry Hogan. Cox is a MAGA-y state legislator who called Mike Pence a traitor on January 6 and describes Trump as “the only president I recognize right now.” As with Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, Cox received funding from Democratic groups eager to boost candidates that they claim represent an existential threat to American democracy, because they see them as soft targets in November.

While the result will leave Democrats feeling bullish about their chances in the state, it’s a bad blow to Hogan, who, with the end of his term near, had been positioning himself as a centrist alternative to Trump. The limits of that appeal, and his political clout more generally, have been made painfully obvious by the underwhelming performance of his chosen successor.

In Maryland’s sixth congressional district, one intriguing GOP primary subplot came to a somewhat underwhelming end when Matthew Foldi, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Free Beacon came a distant second to state delegate Neil Parrott. As Cockburn has reported, Foldi was aiming to become America’s youngest member of Congress. His candidacy was an interesting experiment in whether you can build a campaign on the back of investigative scoops. It was not to be.

The Squad’s phony agitprop

Heroes of the revolution Ilhan Omar and AOC were “arrested” outside the Supreme Court. You may have seen images of Omar and AOC with their hands behind their back. You may also have seen that they were not in fact handcuffed, and appeared to be hamming it up for the cameras. Beyond the non-handcuffing, the whole thing was a stunt, of course. Stephen L. Miller has an amusing rundown of the civil-rights LARPing.

What you should be reading today

Daniel Turner: How Biden made the energy crisis worse
Chadwick Moore: Justice for bodega worker Jose Alba
Ben Domenech: Why expanding NATO is an America First idea
Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal: A feckless American policy’s legacy
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review: The dog ate their accountability
Joseph Simonson, Washington Free Beacon: Biden halts prosecutions for most illegal border crossings

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 38.2 percent
Disapprove: 56.8 percent
Net approval: -18.6 (RCP Average)

Percentage of Americans who say they have confidence in television news
2020: 18 percent
2022: 11 percent (Gallup)

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