Western democracies are under assault by a Russia determined to bring the United States and its allies to their knees.
It is time our response was nuclear. As in nuclear power.
Improvements in nuclear power have now reportedly made it a safer source of energy, providing an additional source of power free from the posturing blackmail of leaders such as Putin.
Climate change expert Michael Shellenberger wrote in Forbes:
"Study after study in top scientific journals find that nuclear power plants are far and away the safest way to make reliable electricity.... The good news is that a growing number of scientists who specialize in radiation, climate, and public health are speaking out for nuclear power plants as critical to saving lives.... In 2013... the climate scientists Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen found that 'nuclear power prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths.'"
We view these statistics at a time when the war in Ukraine has painfully revealed Western Europe is at the mercy of a Russian natural gas pipeline that powers much of Europe's economy, from industrial factories to apartment buildings to pubs. Until recently, Putin has only "toyed" with Europe's access to Russian energy, and suggested that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was down for maintenance one day and emergency repairs the next. Now, instead of a fraction of the normal supply he has allowed to trickle into Europe, Putin has effectively shut off the supply as punishment for the West's support of Ukraine.
The French are not content to sit in the cold this winter. In recognition that wind and solar cannot possibly replace lost Russian natural gas, their response has been to restart their nuclear reactors. They seek a clean, reliable source of power that is indifferent to Putin's energy war on the West.
That is not to say nuclear will replace fossil fuels or its "green" alternatives, solar and wind. Aircraft engines may one day run on hydrogen, but the scores of aircraft now in the air at any given hour will rely on fossil fuels for years to come.
The need to create an effective, safe and immediate energy policy is nothing less than urgent. A Europe plunged into a cold winter darkness with idle factories and massive unemployment is the perfect recipe for social upheaval. It is Putin's strategic dream to see the West humbled and the United States helpless to assist its allies. Russia's withholding gas to Europe creates global instability that will only benefit our enemies.
All of this seems to have a muddled White House at a loss as to how to respond. At a time when energy has assumed the role of a strategic weapon in the hands of tyrant waging a bloody war of aggression, the Biden Administration has initially pursued an energy policy that was more aspirational than achievable. During his run for the presidency, Biden's campaign actively sought to demonize the fossil fuel industry.
Now analysts say he is swerving from pillar to post as he seeks to find a strategic response to an existential energy threat. Not only is he equivocating on fossil fuels but he is seeking to close down nuclear power while creating a credit program for those who use nuclear power to generate American energy independence.
It is time that Biden and our allies recognized that Putin has created a modern version of Lenin's oft-repeated observation that "capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." In this case, Putin has fashioned that rope in the form of natural gas that has powered democracy and prosperity in Europe for the last decade. Remove it, and Putin expects his democratic foes to become unstable and perhaps ungovernable.
In response, it is time America and her allies "went nuclear."
We have within our power to confront and defeat Putin's energy war on the West. The question now is whether the White House has the strategic vision and political will to do so with the unlimited resources that we have had since Americans split the atom.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.