Europe is scrambling for the gas cut off made by Russia. European energy suppliers are opening gas accounts in Russian rubles, despite the bloc’s united front against Moscow.
While Poles and Bulgarians fear that their stoves and radiators will run out, the rest of the European Union is hurrying to respond to Vladimir Putin’s latest chess move in the Ukraine conflict, which involves shutting off gas supplies to his regular consumers.
Last week, Moscow froze natural gas production (LNG) shipments to Poland and Bulgaria, threatening to do it to other countries if they decide to defend Kyiv, provoking allegations of blackmail from European countries and the United States.
Putin’s move has been regarded as a threat to his European adversaries, who are also dependent on Russian gas, oil, and other petroleum-based products, as well as a bid to refill his financial reserves. No roubles, no gas, was the message.
The fuel suppliers Uniper in Germany and Eni SpA in Italy allegedly registered contracts with Russian bank Gazprombank to purchase Russian gas the day after the Kremlin closed off the tap, marking Moscow a significant victory in its attempts to accept funds in roubles.
Energy businesses can remain theoretically compliant with the restrictions by paying Gazprombank in euros, which is something the bank might transform into roubles in a different account, despite the European Union’s attempts to keep a collective front against Russia.
“Putin has this tool, and he’s using it,” said Natasha Lindstaedt, a political professor at the University of Essex and writer of Democratic Decay and Authoritarian Renewal.
“Not the military weaponry he employs in the conflict, but even the arsenal of whoever is reliant on his available natural resources.”
“What state would withdraw that much money on a daily basis?” Lindstaedt went on to say. “However, he demands money in roubles that will assist him in funding his military activities.” Penalties are rendered meaningless when Russia receives the comparable of $850 million per day from the same countries that have implemented them.”
The Western-led trade embargo against Moscow has damaged the country economically and exhausted its foreign currency reserves, forcing Moscow to utilize its primary export to pay for the military effort with monies provided by its adversaries.
While not unusual – the Soviet Union supplied oil and natural gas to much of Europe during the Cold War – the scenario places nations like Germany, who are both significant clients and opponents of Moscow, in a difficult position.
“Germany is undoubtedly caught in such a difficult position. They rely on Russian gas more than anything else in Europe, according to Lindstaedt.
“They had to take a gander increasingly significant towards the Middle East, that they may not want to do for other factors. What is infuriating for them, would be that Germany had also long had a powerful environmental movement, that has been spoken about self-sufficient, alternative sources of energy to gas and oil, so it’s a terrible dilemma for them.”
Weeks ago, the European Commission called for establishing a geographic investigation team in Sofia to look for alternative sources of energy even before Bulgarian winter arrives. In contrast, Polish Party Leader Mateusz Morawiecki guaranteed to emancipate his homeland from Russian gas after criticizing Moscow for “holding a gun to our heads.”
According to Benedict McAleenan, general manager at Helmsley Energy and senior researcher at the Policy Exchange reckon in London, Putin is trying to split European nations and disintegrate their cohesive attitude.
“It also operates by increasing the market volatility, which drives up prices and improves Russian revenue,” McAleenan told news agencies. “Poland and Germany had recently reached an agreement that would allow Germany to violate Russia’s energy embargo by utilizing Polish pipelines to fuel German refineries and Putin is now attempting to penalize them.”
“In the meantime, Bulgaria’s government has indicated sympathy for Ukraine, and it has historically been pro-Russian. Putin most likely believes that by providing pro-Russian provocateurs something to shout about, he may sway the position of Sofia.”
Bulgaria, according to Lindstaedt, had a greater yearning for the Civil War than most other former Eastern Bloc countries.
“Putin has a big following there, and part of that is due to the media’s framing of the Ukraine war as unsubstantiated media accusations and western misinformation,” she said. “As a result, this may be portrayed as him being forced to do something.”
If Putin is playing the long strategy, expecting that public outrage over rising fuel prices will convince European leaders, it has the potential to cause a lot worse economic suffering.
“Europe cannot immediately replace the energy Russia proposes to turn off,” said Nick Butler, an analyst and senior lecturer at King’s College London. He added that fresh shipments might take many years to arrive.
“The real price hikes have yet to take effect since no sources have been cut off outside of Poland and Bulgaria.” I expect public opinion to differ from place to country.”
With so many European countries presently experiencing massive inflation, it’s dubious whether this ploy would weaken or strengthen anti-Moscow sentiment.
“The only way out is for Russia to stop assaulting its neighbor, or for Europe to fast transition to systems with reduced energy consumption, more energies, nuclear power, and a lot more LNG,” McAleenan explained. “Another possibility is a global depression, which may assist lower costs, but is scarcely desirable.”
A vital lesson for Europe is that they have become sleepwalkers in such a vulnerable situation, Lindstaedt stated.
“For some time now, Putin has been delivering unambiguous signals that Europe, North Atlantic treaty organization, or whatever his hateful ideology is, should not ‘override,” she said.
“We had more than two decades of trying together, but now it has gained momentum for completely different reasons.
“It’s a problem which will repeat itself: Biden pushes for greater military help to Ukraine, US, European Union allies agree, and Moscow retaliate by using its gas delivery arsenal against those alliances.” The only way to indeed halt this is for the gasoline to be taken out of the equation.”
Edited by Prakriti Arora