“Gas” blackmail of Europe. What is Russia trying to achieve?

Russia’s Gazprom has refused to book additional gas supplies to the EU via Ukraine and Poland for the next heating season, although it has only increased its bids in the past. As a result, European underground storage facilities are currently only half full. If what is happening continues, the level of gas reserves by winter in Europe will be only 70% at a rate of 92%.

Problems with pumping have already caused a sharp rise in prices for natural gas in Europe – up to $ 450 per thousand cubic meters, and in Ukraine, which is tied to prices at European hubs – up to 15 thousand hryvnia per thousand cubic meters. Gazprom is pursuing a frank policy of “drying up” the European gas market in order to curb high gas prices. This allows him to compensate for last year’s losses, when fuel prices were at record lows, as well as to accumulate money “fat” for the future. But this is not the main problem.

Nord Stream 2 is a good reality

The Kremlin’s main goal is to show Europe that Nord Stream 2 is a good reality, it is only necessary to accelerate its completion and commissioning. They say that then the European Union will not have any problems with gas supply. It is clear that this is a completely false thesis, as the available free capacity of gas transportation through Ukraine to Europe allows to cover any deficit. But Gazprom’s plan is quite transparent. In practice, it is an element of preparation for a possible scenario of a winter crisis, as Gazprom supplies gas to about 40% of the European market.

The Kremlin is already blackmailing Europe

The Kremlin, despite the fact that the construction of Nord Stream 2 has not yet been completed and its further operation remains in great question, is already blackmailing Europe . This is what Ukraine has repeatedly stated, warning the EU about the possibility of threats from Russia.

By the way, at the junction of 2019-2020, Gazprom failed to achieve the “crisis” goal – the United States hit with sanctions on Nord Stream-2. This forced Gazprom to sign an agreement with Naftogaz. Now that the current US administration has given way to new restrictive measures, Russia is taking the opportunity to implement its plan and finally “convince” the Europeans (not only in words but also in “gas pistol”) that SP-2 and “Turkish Stream” “are extremely important for the EU.

Ukraine has long known such “maneuvers”. We have already gone through more than one gas crisis provoked by the Russian Federation. For example, in 2009 Russia completely cut off gas supplies to Europe…

It is important to understand that Russia will continue to manipulate gas exports to Europe in various directions. Moscow is openly demonstrating its position of strength. And on its side, Berlin is silently represented by the current federal government led by Angela Merkel. Therefore, Russia is confident that there will be no resistance from the European Commission.

At present, we really do not see the EC’s reaction to the “draining” of the EU gas market.

And the complexity of the situation is that Gazprom is operating on the verge of what is allowed. The volumes of gas currently supplied to Europe are carried out under contracts with European companies, but only at minimal levels. That is, formally nothing is violated and there are no lawsuits from European companies. Russia’s lobbyists in the EU explain that there is no reason to worry about the European Commission.

The European Commission has become a branch of the German government

However, if the EC is still silent, it does not mean that it will not react at all. The European bureaucracy is very slow. Monitoring is ongoing, but whether everything will be within the legal framework is a big question. Yes, sometimes it seems that the European Commission has become a Brussels branch of the current German government. But we must remember that Poland takes a completely different position on these issues. And we need to cooperate with her in this story.

After all, there is really something to worry about. In the future, with the launch of Nord Stream-2, Russia will have a surplus of pipeline capacity of almost another annual gas export to Europe. The Kremlin will have the freedom to choose which route, at what price and how much gas can be sold. This is what Russia has been pursuing for the last twenty years and has not hidden it.

That is, in the next year or two, if we do not stop Russia with its flows, the EU gas market will be seriously distorted by Gazprom.

In this situation, Ukraine needs to use the mechanism of early warning of a possible gas crisis, which is enshrined in the Association Agreement with the EU. Appendix XXVI clearly states:

“Ukraine and the EU shall establish an” early warning mechanism “in order to consolidate practical measures aimed at preventing and responding quickly to emergencies or the threat of an emergency … in the event that one of the parties becomes aware of an emergency or situation which, in the sense of of that party may lead to an emergency, such party shall immediately inform the other party. “

That’s what you need to use. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, on behalf of the government, should formally apply to the European Commission on the risks of a crisis situation with gas supplies to the EU by Russia in the coming winter period 2021-2022. It will also be right to coordinate with our Polish partners. And there is no need to wait until everyone finally understands what the Kremlin is trying to achieve.

Mykhailo Honchar, President of the Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI ” , Energy Expert

(C)UNIAN 2021

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