OPINON: Russia’s plans to use natural gas as an economic and political weapon in Europe have been dealt a blow after Moldova secured alternative gas deliveries for its upcoming winter.

Moldova lies between NATO member Romania and war-torn Ukraine, but remains deeply within the shadow cast by Russia, with troops stationed in the breakaway pro-Russian region of Transdniestria.

In October, Russian gas giant Gazprom’s refusal to increase Moldova’s gas supplies by one third to help meet its seasonal energy demand spurred the small nation’s government to urgently arrange imports of gas and electricity from Europe — and even Ukraine.

The deals sparked waves of protests in the capital, Chisinau, demanding the resignation of the government over the anticipated price rises caused by the emergency purchases.

However, any cheer that the Russian government may have had at the protests proved to be short-lived, with the Moldovan government arranging another deal, for 3.5 million cubic metres per day.

The deal apparently became possible after trial shipments of gas to Moldova via the recently commissioned Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria pipeline.

According to Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu, the alternative deals also leave Gazprom responsible for shipping 5.7 MMcmd of gas via Ukraine to Transdniestria, where most of the volumes will be used to generate electricity, a major share of which will be sent to Moldova.

With Germany’s first liquefied natural gas import terminal expecting its first cargoes in January, and the increasing interconnectivity of regional gas pipelines in Europe, assumptions that central Europe’s landlocked countries have no option to source oil and gas imports from anywhere other than Russia is becoming no more than a political fiction.

More than three months since Russia halted gas exports via Nord Stream 1 and the Yamal Pipeline, Europe has seen a flurry of new arrangements and deals for energy supplies.

Perhaps the spectre of a future without Russian energy supplies is not as scary as first appeared.

(This is an Upstream opinion article).