By Owei Lakemfa
The European Union, EU, and the Group of Seven, G7, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United States, US, the United Kingdom and Australia made a deceitful announcement to the world on Friday, December 2, 2022. They claimed that in solidarity with Ukraine, they have decided to cap the price of Russian oil at $60 per barrel in order to reduce the funds available to the latter to prosecute the war in Ukraine.
US officials claimed the cap demonstrated the resolve of the coalition opposing Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, was to give two reasons for the cap: “The EU agreement on an oil price cap, coordinated with the G7 and others, will reduce Russia’s revenues significantly. It will help us stabilise global energy prices, benefiting emerging economies around the world.”
So which is the real reason? Solidarity with Ukraine or a half clever way to reduce and control the price of global oil? I think it is the latter because the powerful countries included a mechanism to keep the oil price cap at any time at least five per cent below the market rate. This is, of course, an attempt to force down oil prices. So, is it really to reduce the money available to Russia to fund its war machine, or, as Kadri Simson, the European Commissioner for Energy, cries: “It is unfair to pay excess revenues to Russia.”
This simply means that the Europeans think that the oil prices they are paying are too high, so they want a way outside the so-called market forces, to force down oil and gas prices globally. The Europeans, who are the main forces behind this price cap, might think that the rest of the world is so dumb that we have forgotten that in August and September, they tried to impose this price cap for purely economic reasons and not out of any solidarity with Ukraine.
The EU Energy Ministers met on Friday, September 30, 2022, to find ways of reducing soaring energy prices in their continent and impose a price cap on a globally-traded commodity over which they have no control. Internally, they had suggested a revenue cap on energy generators, and a special windfall tax imposed on oil companies. Some of their discussions focused on reducing gas consumption, gas storage for the winter and diversifying supply.
Europe has invested heavily in the Ukrainian War, including large sums for arms supplies, humanitarian aid, and disrupting its oil and gas supplies from Russia, which was providing 40 per cent of its needs. However, with soaring energy prices, including electricity, social rumblings about the cost of living, and the impending arrival of winter, Europe has been in panic mode for months.
Most of the countries in the continent have had to provide liquidity guarantees for energy companies to keep them afloat. France had gone so far as to nationalise the multinational electricity company, the Elecricite de France. Germany had also seized the “Unique” and “Performance” gas company, the Uniper SE.
The effects of sustaining the war and providing palliative measures have resulted in straining public finances; a major way the EU is trying to withstand this is by capping the prices of oil and gas. Many had risen up against the EU for trying to impose price caps on oil and gas rather than allow ‘market forces’ to determine prices. When the ‘price cap’ strategy was not bought by the rest of the world, the Europeans came up with other nomenclatures such a “price corridor” and ”circuit breaker”. Forced to come out into the open, they now claim the price cap is in solidarity with Ukraine and to reduce Russian financial ability to oil its war machine.
It is not the EU alone that is trying to fool the rest of the world, war-torn Ukraine and its allies are also involved in another game of deceit. The country, with a pre-war population of 43 million, is mainly destroyed, with 7.9 million refugees and eight million internally displaced.
The 35 million Ukrainians left in the country live in uncertain conditions, with 17.7 million of them in need of urgent assistance and 9.3 million Ukranians in need of food aid. Obviously, the state of Ukraine deserves pity and people around the world ought to contribute to assist its starving populace. So eyebrows are bound to be raised when the government of that same country announced on November 24, 2022, that it is sending 125 thousand tons of grains to Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya and Yemen as ‘humanitarian’ aid.
A check of the four countries show that only Yemen is in dire straits as far as food is concerned. Nigeria is not in need of food aid like Ukraine, neither is Kenya.
Except it is some monkey business, a country with a starving populace and problems of shipping its grains to shore up its ruined economy, cannot claim to be giving out food. In Nigeria, we say the snake has invisible hands, which means, you should beware of deception. This whole Ukrainian “humanitarian” mission is suspicious and stupid. President Volodymyr Zelensky is like a man with a starving family giving out food packs to passers-by who do not appear to be hungry. What point is being made or what game is being played by the clown in Kiev?
In another contribution to the games in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden last Friday, said he would hold talks with President Vladimir Putin ”if in fact there is an interest in him deciding that he’s looking for a way to end the war.” This, of course, is an unserious way of initiating dialogue or negotiations. Surprisingly, I believe the maverick, Elon Musk, is a much more serious person in attempting to broker peace in Ukraine.
On October 3, he put forward four proposals to form the basis of negotiating peace in Ukraine. These include formally recognising Crimea as a Russian territory, Ukraine agreeing not to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, military alliance, and all sides agreeing to a United Nations-supervised referendum in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to allow the people to decide their future.
The Musk suggestions are of course unpopular in a world focused on continuous war. In fact, some viewed them as provocative. But Musk has at least ideas to share on how the war can be brought to an end. What do we say of President Biden that has no proposals? Too many games are being played with the war in Ukraine and so much is being done under the cover of supporting it to ‘fight until victory is assured.’ It is a world of deception without end.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), is a human rights activist, journalist, and author.