The second front has opened in the battle for Ukraine—an energy war in Europe. There’s no mystery about Vladimir Putin’s strategy. He laid it out at an economic conference in St. Petersburg in June: high energy prices, which bring hardship as they radiate through the European economy, which will create social turmoil, which will mean that people vote their pained pocketbooks. This in turn will bring to power populist parties that will, to use his own language, change “the elites” in Europe.
The ultimate aim is to bring governments to power in Europe that aren’t committed to supporting Ukraine and thus fracture the Western coalition. The strategy is already at work. Last month a right-wing party pulled out of Italy’s governing coalition, citing “the terrible choice” that Italian families face “of paying their electricity bill or buying food.” This forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who in June had traveled to Kyiv to affirm Italy’s support for Ukraine.