The next 20-30 years of history could very well be prefaced by what is happening in the Ukraine right now. Domestic political discord over whether the Ukraine would align itself more firmly with Russia or the European Union has escalated into an invasion of the Crimea by Russian forces.
Now the rest of the world is scratching their heads about just what is to be done: beginning, confoundingly, with whether or not it will actually be called an invasion or an "uncontested arrival."
There's no question that the stakes for the west are high. Russia is a member of the G8, and accordingly is considered an important economic ally of Europe, the United States, and Canada. In particular, Europe's reliance on Russia's energy resources have seemingly stunted the European Union's ability to respond to Russia's aggression. At least, this is the idea being advanced.
One of the greatest strategic minds of the 20th century isn't buying that. Via his Twitter account, former World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov is urging world leaders to be a little less mindful of Russia's ability to leverage its energy resources as a foreign policy cudgel. Kasparov in seizing on one of the most crucial aspects of the philosophy of ethical oil: the power of the consumer. And as Kasparov has it, the power of the consumer, if used, can hamper the ability of Vladimir Putin to use Russia's oil and gas exports to bully the west.
"US and EU [don't] have to 'bomb everybody,'" Kasparov Tweeted. "Putin doesn't want and can't afford war. Resource providers need buyers as much as vice-versa. This is a fallacy, that Putin has all power because of oil & gas. His survival depends on sale of these things. The buyer has leverage too!"
It's important to add a key caveat: the buyer has leverage if they have access to another seller. And the European Union, with its targeting of the Alberta oil sands, has limited its access to other energy sellers.
This matters. Russia has access to other buyers, while the EU in particular doesn't have access to as many alternative sellers. And while Canada has done the environmental due diligence on the Northern Gateway pipeline, Russia has strengthened its commercial ties with China.
But if Canada were to complete the Northern Gateway pipeline quickly, and complete the Energy East pipeline as quickly, the Alberta oilsands could prove key to reducing Russia's ability to use its energy reserves as a foreign policy club. Providing both Europe and China with alternative sellers to meet their energy needs could go a long way toward ending this bullying by the Russian bear.
Admittedly, this matters more to Europe than it will to China. China is not likely to be swayed from purchasing Russian oil and gas. Simply put, the peace-loving values simply aren't there.
But they certainly are in Europe. And if European energy consumers want to satisfy their demands using energy that promotes international peace and stability, there's nowhere better for them to find it than in Canada -- their sole alternative to Russian and Canadian oil is in the Middle East.
Canadians and Albertans need to be well aware of this: we frequently focus on the oilsands as largely a domestic issue. It's far too easy to forget that Canada can leverage its oil resources to do good in the world and pocket a significant economic benefit for its trouble.
But before this can happen Canada needs to step up to the plate by completing the necessary export infrastructure, and by something so simple as not apologizing for the controversies stirred up by those -- often finding funding in Moscow -- intent on landlocking Canadian oil and keeping it in the ground.
Gary Kasparov gets it: the answer to Russian aggression is ethical oil.