Energy war looms as Europe braces for Putin to reduce natural gas exports

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Europe may still be grappling with a heat wave, but it is already preparing for President Vladimir Putin to squeeze a natural gas pipeline and force millions to ration heating this winter.

Governments and analysts this week warned against it Nord Stream 1 main pipeline – Europe’s main natural gas artery, 45% of which comes from Russia – could be the subject of an energy war as Russia responds to Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is blackmailing us. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that Russia is using energy as a weapon, adding that Europe must prepare for the worst.

Gas started flowing again on Thursday After a routine break of 10 days But only with a capacity of 40% of the pre-maintenance period. Unless Europe wean itself off its dependence on Russia, experts and officials say Putin will put this sword of Damocles on the heads of his Western neighbors — and with it the risk of economic, political, and even societal turmoil that would weaken. Pro-Ukrainian Alliance.

“This winter will be a stern test of nerves in some European capitals,” said John Love, an associate fellow at London’s Chatham House think-tank, adding that Russia’s weaponization of gas is “part of its mixed war strategy to try to persuade Western countries to reduce their support for Ukraine.”

The central problem, according to industry analysts, is that Europe allowed itself to depend on Russia. Governments here have not allowed human rights concerns to stop Billions of euros in deals With energy companies controlled by the Kremlin.

Germany participated the most.

A now infamous photo from 2011 appears then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel Smiling alongside then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, he opens the taps for Nord Stream 1. It costs 7.4 billion euros (about the same amount in US dollars at today’s prices) and has enough capacity to supply half of German gas, although some of it has been sent somewhere else.

Angela Merkel has been criticized after leaving office for allowing Germany to become too dependent on Russia.Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, went on to become a board member of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft and was nominated to the board of Gazprom, the gas giant and major shareholder of Nord Stream.

Schroeder, a friend of Putin, only resigned from Rosneft and rejected Gazprom’s offer after months of lobbying, including stripping him of his parliamentary privileges at the post office.

Nord Stream 1 was controversial upon its opening, with Ukraine protesting that it was an attempt by Russia to bypass its former Soviet neighbors crossed by the former pipelines.

Rather than back off, Germany in 2018 gave approval to Gazprom to begin construction on Nord Stream 2 – a larger pipeline that runs in parallel. This, after Moscow’s conquest of Crimea, increased its crackdowns on political dissent and interference in Western elections.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February was a belated reckoning for European capitals.

Germany Certificate pending for Nord Stream 2 A few days ago, with Russia’s escalation of tensions. Western sanctions have made it more difficult to deal with Russia, which in turn denies the allegations Deliberately pressure on supplies To raise Western bills and intensify political and economic pressure on its competitors.

with Nord Stream 2 is on hold indefinitelyattention has turned to Nord Stream 1. It always shuts down for 10 days every July for maintenance, but this year Putin has seen the channel could become less reliable due to sanctions delaying delivery of parts served by the West.

For months, Europe has accused Russia of cutting European gas supplies in a bid to raise prices and sow a political divide that some fear will spill over into street unrest.

Norbert Röttgen, an MP for Merkel’s political party, tweeted that this strategy is part of “Putin’s attack on Europe: he is trying to divide and destabilize.”

picture:
Nord Stream 1 landfall facility in Lubmen, Germany, where natural gas began flowing again Thursday. Marcus Schreiber/AFP

Some took Putin’s warning about Nord Stream 1 as an open threat that he might not restart Europe’s gas artery at all.

There is nothing outrageous about ‘maintenance itself,’ says Jack Sharples, a research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, a think tank. “But that’s the context that worries people.”

Russia, defending its record as a reliable supplier, said the reduced capacity was due to technical problems it blamed on sanctions.

“Gazprom has fulfilled, fulfilled and will fulfill all its obligations,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily news briefing on Thursday. “Any technological difficulties associated with this stem from the restrictions imposed by the European countries themselves.”

Klaus Muller, head of the network’s regulator in Germany, was not optimistic.

“Given the missing 60% and political instability, there is no reason for everything to be so clear just yet,” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Europe has vowed to find its energy elsewhere – easier said than done.

I have tried to bring in liquefied natural gas (known as LNG) from the United States and elsewhere. But this can only be extended so far, and Europe remains so dependent on Russia that if Moscow turns off the taps, Europe will have to reduce its energy use by 15%, according to Analysis by Bruegel . Brussels Research Centre.

If there is a cold snap this winter, Europeans may have to wear an extra jacket instead of central heating, or take a shorter shower.

“The Germans are certainly preparing for a worst-case scenario, but I don’t think the public is really being informed, but what that means in practice,” said Love of Chatham House.

“If you end up hoping for a warm winter, you’re probably in for a tough spot.”

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