British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the West to end its “addiction” to Russian energy as he prepares to travel to Saudi Arabia to push for increased oil and gas production.
Mr Johnson is on Tuesday set to travel to the kingdom for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hope that Saudi Arabia will raise its production of oil and gas to make up for a reduced reliance on Russia.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said western leaders had made a “terrible mistake” by letting Russian President Vladimir Putin annex Crimea in 2014 and then becoming “more dependent” on Russian power sources.
He said the demand for Russian fuel had “emboldened” the Kremlin to bomb civilians during its invasion of Ukraine, while profiting from soaring global oil and gas prices.
“We cannot go on like this. The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail,” Mr Johnson said.
His administration has already announced its plan to phase out importing Russian oil by the end of the year.
“As long as the West is economically dependent on Putin, he will do all he can to exploit that dependence," Mr Johnson said. "And that is why that dependence must, and will, now end.”
He said Russia produced “virtually nothing else” that the “rest of the world wants to buy”.
“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," Mr Johnson said.
Offering a glimpse of what could be in his British Energy Security Strategy, which is due to be published this month, he said there was a need to proceed with investment in renewables, including more UK offshore wind farms and more solar power.
Mr Johnson said there must be a “series of big new bets” on nuclear power to make sure the UK’s energy supply was “no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin”.
But he said that diverging from Russian power would be “painful” and that financial assistance offered by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to help pay with rising bills this year could not be afforded “for long”.
On Tuesday, before Mr Johnson flies to Riyadh, he is due to host leaders from the Joint Expeditionary Force, an alliance of northern European nations.
Representatives from Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway had been expected to dine with Mr Johnson at his Chequers country retreat on Monday night before talks in London on Tuesday.