In sprawling plains of Donbas where artillery is king, Ukrainian troops admit they are not in a place to force a Russian retreat. — © AFP
US billionaire George Soros warned Tuesday that “civilization may not survive” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but said Europe could have a stronger position against President Vladimir Putin regarding gas than it realises.
In his traditional dinner speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain town of Davos, the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist said the war has “shaken Europe to its core.”
“The invasion may have been the beginning of the Third World War and our civilization may not survive it,” Soros said.
“We must mobilise all our resources to bring the war to an early end. The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible,” he said.
He praised US and European support for Ukraine but Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels “remains excessive,” Soros said.
The European Union aims to reduce its use of Russian gas by two-thirds this year, but it has fallen short of banning imports as some nations, most notably Germany, are heavily reliant on Moscow’s exports.
The EU has also struggled to agree on an oil ban due to Hungary’s opposition.
“I think Putin has been very clever in sort of blackmailing Europe, threatening to cut off the gas, but actually his case is much less strong than he pretends,” Soros said.
“He’s actually in a crisis and he has managed somehow to terrify Europe,” he said.
He said Putin put gas in storage last year instead of exporting it to Europe, creating a shortage that raised prices and made Russia “a lot of money.”
But storage facilities will be full in July and Russia has no other place to ship the gas than Europe as it is its only market, he said.
Soros said he had explained this in a recent letter to Italian President Mario Draghi, but he has yet to receive a reply.
Putin is “in a tight situation. He has to do something with that gas,” Soros said. “Europe has a much stronger position than it recognises.”