John Krull: Every gas station becomes a battlefield



INDIANAPOLIS—The cartel decision of major oil-producing nations reveals how repressive regimes intend to wage war in the future.

They will divert the fight from military commitments and try to strip economic sanctions of their power by making energy a battlefield, even a new front.

This is what the decision to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day means. It is a show of force and an attempt to force self-governing Western countries to re-engage in an arena in which they are vulnerable.

In the short term, the cut is designed to generate funds for Russian strongman Vladmir Putin’s now increasingly costly and futile campaign to conquer Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine united the West in a way not seen in generations and left autocratic Putin and his country isolated and on the defensive.

Ukraine’s determination to fight back, coupled with the strong will of the United States and much of Europe to provide weapons and military technology while imposing severe sanctions on the aggressor, revealed many serious Russian weaknesses.

The Russian army, once considered almost unstoppable, is driven back from captured Ukrainian territory. Putin’s call for more than 300,000 new conscripts to fight what now appears to be a doomed war has sparked massive protests in the streets and sent Russian men fleeing to border countries to avoid conscription.

Worse still, the sanctions imposed by the West are expected to have their full impact this winter and will likely lead to severe shortages across the country, which will only increase the levels of discontent among the Russian people.

Worse still, from Putin’s perspective, is that Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine, are now aligning themselves with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In short, the Russian strongman is taking a beating on the military, economic and political fronts.

No wonder he wants to change the battlefield.

Enter Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, otherwise known as MBS.

Like Putin, MBS is a thug. He views murder as both a political tool and a birthright.

Moreover, like Putin, MBS believes that he and his nation have been treated unfairly, that their many transgressions against decency and international law should be ignored and perhaps even applauded. He too has felt the sting of sanctions and pariah status between nations and knows that any traditional military conflict with the West would not go well for him, his nation or his region.

He also has reasons to change the field of engagement.

The one that Putin and MBS have now chosen to fight over makes sense to them. Not only have they chosen an arena in which they are both well armed and well fortified, but they have chosen terrain that exposes great vulnerabilities to the West, especially the United States.

Much of US energy policy aims to deny – rather than address – reality. When federal and state governments intervene during energy crises, especially during election years, the goal is to lower prices for consumers.

This has the effect of encouraging energy consumption, even if it is either a waste or a failure.

Fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas diminish or even eliminate natural resources. Gone are the days when they were cheap and easy to find.

Reality deniers here in the United States say that we should meet the challenge of shrinking the oil cartel by increasing our own production and thereby depleting our own reserves more quickly.

This will leave us in an even more vulnerable position for years to come unless we develop discipline regarding our energy use or find alternative energy sources.

The United States represents just over 4% of the world’s population, but we Americans represent over 17% of the world’s energy consumption.

This is why Putin and MBS chose to attack in this way. They know that America’s voracious energy consumption leaves this nation and its people exposed.

We can call the oil cartel’s decision to cut production a lot of things: a power play, an aid package for Vladimir Putin, a show of force, a losing move on the geopolitical chessboard.

All of this is true.

But for us Americans, the reduction must also be seen as something else.

A wake-up call.

John Krull is director of the Pulliam School of Journalism at Franklin College and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and should not be attributed to Franklin College. Send feedback to [email protected]

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