If you ask Europe’s friends around the world what they think of the old continent’s prospects they often respond with two emotions. One is admiration. In the struggle to help Ukraine and resist Russian aggression, Europe has displayed unity, grit and a principled willingness to bear enormous costs. But the second is alarm. A brutal economic squeeze will pose a test of Europe’s resilience in 2023 and beyond. There is a growing fear that the recasting of the global energy system, American economic populism and geopolitical rifts threaten the long-run competitiveness of the European Union and non-members, including Britain. It is not just the continent’s prosperity that is at risk, the health of the transatlantic alliance is, too.
Don’t be fooled by the rush of good news from Europe in the past few weeks. Energy prices are down from the summer and a run of good weather means that gas storage is nearly full. But the energy crisis still poses dangers. Gas prices are six times higher than their long-run average. On November 22nd Russia threatened to throttle the last operational pipeline to Europe, even as missile attacks caused emergency power cuts across Ukraine. Europe’s gas storage will need to be refilled once again in 2023, this time without any piped Russian gas whatsoever.