OPINION: European policymakers were bracing themselves for a complete halt of Russian pipeline gas exports to the continent as they prepared to meet on Friday and consider bloc-wide measures to tackle an unprecedented increase in gas and power prices.
In the latest ratcheting up of tension, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned that exports will halt if the G7 group of countries go ahead with an indirect pricing cap on Russian crude
But time should not be wasted on trying to negotiate a resumption of Russian gas supplies with the Russian government and its state gas company Gazprom.
Russia’s latest reasons for halting gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are aimed at the country’s domestic audience rather then enticing Europe to to plead for cheap Russian volumes.
With Gazprom deeming Nord Stream 1 “dangerous to operate”, the company still has one last card to play, as some Russian gas continues to flow to central Europe via war-torn Ukraine.
Russia has refrained from disrupting this remaining pipeline since it invaded Ukraine in February, but may yet halt flows via this route to give Europe another painful prod.
There is a strong argument that Putin has been preparing for the confrontation with the West for some time, not least with the squeeze on gas supplies last year.
That happened while European politicians ignored adverse political changes in Russia, hoping that economic ties and mutual interests would prevail.
Putin has never been short of mouthpieces keen to divide public opinion on contentious matters and undermine efforts to tackle the energy dependency that has given Europe its biggest geopolitical headache since the end of World War II.
There is a risk that an energy crisis could bring Ukraine and Europe to its knees this winter, and that risk should be met with a decisive and tough response, without losing sight of the attainable goal of energy independence.
This includes preparing the public for the uncomfortable fact that everyone, not only governments, will have to help carry this unpleasant and costly burden.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)
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