As Russia ramps up its second offensive, a debate has erupted over whether Moscow or Kyiv will have the upper hand in 2023. While important, such discourse also misses a larger point related to the conflict’s longer-term consequences. In the long run, the true loser of the war is already clear; Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be remembered as a historic folly that left Russia economically, demographically, and geopolitically worse off.
Start with the lynchpin of Russia’s economy: energy. In contrast to Europe’s (very real) dependence on Russia for fossil fuels, Russia’s economic dependence on Europe has largely gone unremarked upon. As late as 2021, for example, Russia exported 32 percent of its coal, 49 percent of its oil, and a staggering 74 percent of its gas to OECD Europe alone. Add in Japan, South Korea, and non-OECD European countries that have joined Western sanctions against Russia, and the figure is even higher. A trickle of Russian energy continues to flow into Europe, but as the European Union makes good on its commitment to phase out Russian oil and gas, Moscow may soon find itself shut out of its most lucrative export market.