Boris Johnson has called on Western nations to “take back control” of their energy supplies and end an “addiction” to Russian oil and gas that has left them subject to “blackmail” by Vladimir Putin.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph, the prime minister insisted the West “cannot go on like this” and remain “economically dependent” on Russian resources following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Johnson’s call comes ahead of his expected trip to Saudi Arabia, which the PM reportedly hopes will help persuade the kingdom to boost its own production of oil and gas.
This would allow the West to wean itself off Russian supplies.
In his newspaper article, Mr Johnson acknowledged “a terrible mistake” was made following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, when Western countries “decided we could somehow go back to normal”.
“Economic relations did not just resume – they intensified, with the West taking more Russian gas than ever before, becoming more dependent on the goodwill of Putin and more exposed to the vagaries of the global gas and oil price,” he wrote.
“And so when he finally came to launch his vicious war in Ukraine, he knew the world would find it very hard to punish him. He knew that he had created an addiction.”
The PM added that as the Russian assault on Ukraine continues, “the cost of oil and gas rises still further, meaning less money in your pocket and more in Putin’s.
“We cannot go on like this. The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail,” he added.
Mr Johnson described Russia’s “vast resource of hydrocarbons” as Mr Putin’s “strength” but also his “weakness”.
“Putin’s Russia makes little that the rest of the world wants to buy,” he wrote.
“If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve him of cash, destroy his strategy and cut him down to size.”
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The PM promised a new energy security strategy would be published by the government later this month.
He stressed a need to “take back control” and for the UK to “become more self-sufficient and no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin”.
As well as hailing the value of green energy – such as wind, solar and tidal power – Mr Johnson also said now was “the time to make a series of big new bets on nuclear power”.
Despite the government’s ambition to reach net-zero by 2050, Mr Johnson said that fossil fuels would still be needed to “transition” to new energy sources as he proposed greater investment in North Sea oil and gas.
This puts the PM on a fresh collision course with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has said it is “not credible” for an increase in North Sea production to be viewed as a short-term solution to current concerns over soaring energy costs.
Mr Johnson made no mention of Saudi oil and gas supplies in his newspaper article.
But, in a report in The Times at the weekend, it was claimed the PM’s allies see an increase in Saudi and other Middle East production as a means to “outgun the Russians”.