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Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg says high costs from Russian sanctions are ‘price we have to pay for freedom’

·3-min read

The sharp rise in energy costs caused by sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s regime over his invasion of Ukraine is the “price we have to pay for freedom”, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Tuesday.

Delivering a stark message to Western allies who may be questioning the economic cost of supporting the tough measures imposed on Russia, the Nato General Secretary insisted the surge in oil and gas prices was worth paying to support the Ukrainian people.

“I, of course, recognise that our economic sanctions for instance, on parts of Russian industry, on the financial sectors also have global ramifications, also for the energy markets,” Mr Stoltenberg said in a speech on the eve of a critical NATO leaders summit in Madrid.

“And therefore Europeans, Nato allies, the United States, partners, they pay a price. There’s no way to deny that.

“But that price is much lower than the price we’ll pay if Putin gets his way by using military force against an independent nation.

“It’s about the price we have to pay for freedom, for upholding a rules based international order and ensure that the lesson President Putin learns that he cannot be rewarded by using these kinds of brutal military force.”

The price of Brent crude has risen from around $95 a barrel before President Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24 to $116 a barrel four months later. At one stage in March it hit a high of $133 a barrel.

The increase has led to record highs at the pumps with the price of petrol and diesel both soaring, adding to the squeeze being felt by millions of households as energy bills and food prices also rise.

The increase in energy prices has in part been caused by Western restrictions on oil and gas. In May the EU agreed to ban seaborne oil shipments while the US has already banned oil imports with the UK set to follow suit by the end of the year.

At the start of the war Germany announced it was freezing work on Nord Stream 2 - a direct pipeline designed to double the flow of gas from Russia to Germany and other European countries.

Although the restrictions have hit Russia’s economy, the increase in the price of oil has cushioned the blow to President Putin’s oil revenues.

Following a two day summit in Bavaria, Germany, G7 leaders agreed earlier on Tuesday to explore price caps on oil to limit the funds flowing to the Kremlin’s war machine.

However, acknowledging the wider impact of the conflict in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at the end of the talks: “Rising energy prices are endangering security and stability in many countries.”

This week’s Nato leaders summit will look to bolster support for Ukraine as well as agree a new 10 year strategy to deal with Russia’s new aggression and the growing threat of China.

In his speech on to the Nato Public Forum in Madrid, Mr Stoltenberg said the Ukraine war showed the need for the West to reconsider its economic reliance on authoritarian states like Russia and China.

“I think we need to realise that too heavy dependence on some specific commodities can create vulnerabilities for our free and open societies,” he said.

“One example is heavy dependence on gas from Russia. That was not obvious for everyone before Ukraine. But now it’s obvious for everyone that the high dependence by European allies on imports of gas from Russia has made them vulnerable in a way they should never have been.

“Of course, we should trade with China…But we have to be aware of the same risks of too heavy dependence for instance, on rare earth minerals, which are key for many different technologies, including green technologies.  And we have to be aware of the risk of China controlling critical infrastructure.”

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