Pipes carrying gas at the Kasimovskoye underground gas storage facility operated by Gazprom, in Kasimov, Russia, on November 17, 2021.
London CNN Business  — 

When you turn on the heating in your home, you may not think much about where your energy comes from, let alone where the money you pay for it goes. For millions of people living in Europe, there’s a good chance that money is flowing to the Russian state — much of it into President Vladimir Putin’s war chest.

Russia has been building a network of natural gas pipelines throughout Europe since the 1960s. Washington has been warning its Western allies ever since that more Russian gas will only make Europeans more vulnerable to Moscow.

There are fears now that the Kremlin may turn off the supply of natural gas to the European Union, in retaliation for its support for Ukraine — Europe, among other allies, has been sending weapons and aid to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

It’s only been just over a week, but so far, Russia has let the gas flow. But that presents another problem.

Russia is earning hundreds of millions of dollars a day from its oil and gas exports, undermining the financial sanctions Western powers have introduced to choke off financing for Putin’s war effort. The European Union, Russia’s biggest gas customer, is now grappling with the reality that its energy spending has helped empower Putin to carry out a bloody war on its borders.

According to the European think thank Bruegel, with prices at record highs, the value of Russian natural gas exports to the European Union has soared to about €500 million ($545 million) every day. That’s up from about €200 million ($220 million) in February. Before the invasion, Russia was also exporting oil worth hundreds of millions a day to Europe.

EU leaders have been talking about reducing reliance on Russian gas for years. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki put it plainly last week. “We are buying, as [the] European Union, lots of Russian gas, lots of Russian oil. And President Putin is taking the money from us, from the Europeans. And he is turning this into aggression, invasion,” he told an EU summit, according to reports.

For gas alone, the 27-country bloc relies on Russia for 40% of its needs. By country, Germany is Russia’s biggest customer, relying on the nation for more than half of its gas, according to Bruegel.

In turn, Russia needs Europe’s money. Russian oil and gas revenues in 2021 were worth 9.1 trillion rubles, which in January this year converted to $119 billion, Reuters reports. That made up 36% of the country’s budget.

Moscow’s international reserves now stand at $630 billion, its highest ever, making for a huge war fund. But its financial firepower has been severely constrained by Western sanctions that analysts estimate have frozen about half of those assets.

Those sanctions are battering the Russian economy, but they haven’t yet targeted fossil fuel exports directly, so concerned are Western governments about soaring energy prices and the cost of living. Ultimately, they want Russian gas, at least, to keep flowing.

Oil is another story. While the price of benchmark Brent crude soared this week, trading at around $115 a barrel on Fr