Happy Putin

Hungarian dependence of Russian energy is near complete and governments always worked hard to keep it that way

Putin never stopped playing the game of energy dependency for Europe – while Europe made itself believe it is a post-blackmail era when only the price of said energy is the question.

Hungarian governments are always held by the balls by Russia. Putin also made sure to buy off, blackmail (or both) every Hungarian leader into Russia-friendship – which was really just a name for dependence and a vassal status.

Of course, if it was a civilized power trading value for value commercial ties with such a big market would make perfect sense. But once a leader chooses the path of autocracy export, as Russia always does, it is no longer just about the beauty of trade. And they know it.

A short history of Orbán & Putin – A love story

In the short summary of Orbán’s apprenticeship to Putin it was briefly mentioned that even the previous prime minister before Orbán made dodgy deals with Putin, also without any say from the Hungarian parliament (and Orbán was talking about a coup and – rightly – attacked those deals from opposition). The previous prime minister even had the creepy Paks 2 Russian nuclear power station on his mind – Putin has been pushing it for a while – but never got to sing that deal. It was Orbán who eventually did. And just like his predecessor, he didn’t ask the Hungarian parliament, the public, nothing.

Worse, Orbán also chose to follow Putin’s model of building up an autocracy in Hungary, inside the EU, using the EU fund where Putin used money coming from the sale of natural gas and oil: in the building of a loyalist clientele of national tender winners and cronies.

What oil is to Putin – is EU money for Orbán

Orbán was also inspired by the treasonous corruption of western European politicians, who kept dealing with Russia to their own, personal benefit. So why would he not do the same? Whether for personal gains or out of the genuine desire to please even Angela Merkel presided over the most breathtaking increase of dependence on Russian natural gas: the combined impact of the ill-conceived nuclear phase-out and the support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (that allowed Putin to starve eastern European countries of gas while still supplying Germany, its biggest customer on the continent).

It wasn’t even a slow-motion catastrophe on a historic time scale. It only took a few years starting with the lynch mob hysteria against all things nuclear after Fukushima and ending in 2022, shortly before Putin allowed himself to attack Ukraine. With Nord Stream on the ready and Germany hopelessly hooked, now he could afford it.

There is no reason to act surprised. He said it and he did it. It was what Russia always did – and still. It takes a teenager to believe that this time is any different. That energy dependence only mattered in the dark ages, like the 80s, but now that he is born, we are totally beyond the need to use energy because he is sooo much more enlightened than his dumb parents.

The below map only shows European countries’ dependence on Russian gas in particular. Oil and nuclear (technology) is not listed.

It is also Orbán’s secret election weapon since 2014: in exchange for enslaving the country for Russian nuclear infrastructure for decades ad being Putin’s man in Europe he got a better gas deal so that he can tell his voters that he, alone, stops high energy prices and fixed them at their 2014 level.

His followers now march with slogans that “we choose gas”.

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The gas dependency ratio is the share of gas imported from Russia over total gas imports, weighted by the share of net imports of gas over total Gross Inland Consumption. Gross Inland Consumption (GIC) includes consumption by the energy sector, distribution/transformation losses, final energy consumption by end users, and ‘statistical differences’. It thus accounts for “gross demand for energy”. Hence, overall dependency is simply net imports of all energy sources over GIC, and gas dependency is net gas imports over GIC. We use Eurostat 2019 data for net imports of energy and GIC, and Bruegel 2021 data for the share of gas imported from Russia, due to a lack of data on Russian imports for some key countries in Eurostat (among which Ukraine). Map: Thomas Belaich at Bruegel Source: Eurostat, Bruegel.

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