After 10 days of scheduled upkeep, Russian gasoline deliveries by way of the Nord Stream 1 gasoline pipeline resumed on Thursday, although not at full capability. Nonetheless, it led to a sigh of aid within the European Union, and particularly in Germany. The EU’s largest economic system had feared that Russia may use some pretext to utterly shut down this important Baltic Sea transport route for pure gasoline.
The episode makes clear that President Vladimir Putin doesn’t need to cede management of his gasoline — a preferred and nonetheless very potent weapon. If he had ordered Gazprom to not resume deliveries by way of Nord Stream 1, he would have successfully burned all bridges. By now, even essentially the most naive Germans appear to have realized that Putin is the one making such geostrategic choices in Russia, particularly now through the battle in opposition to Ukraine and the head-on confrontation with the West.
Had Russia not turned on the faucets, the EU would have declared the best alarm degree and instantly implement its plans for a gasoline provide emergency. There would have been an embargo on Russian gasoline, solely it might have been imposed not by the EU, however by Russia itself.
After that, it might have been tough for Russia to renew deliveries once more. That might have regarded like an indication of weak point, a concession to the West, or perhaps a de facto admission that with out its European clients, Gazprom has nowhere to promote its huge portions of West Siberian gasoline.
As an alternative, the Russian state-owned firm will now proceed to generate international foreign money for the nation, which is vital for Russia as a serious participant within the uncooked supplies market, particularly on condition that Russian coal will disappear utterly from the European market in three weeks on account of EU sanctions, and Russian oil largely by the top of the 12 months.
However within the present scenario, one thing else is clearly far more vital to the Kremlin: By resuming Nord Stream 1 operations, Moscow retains the likelihood to proceed scaring the Europeans by threatening them with an entire gasoline freeze.
Gazprom might proceed to blackmail Europeans
Final month, Gazprom blamed the absence of a Siemens gasoline turbine present process repairs in Canada for chopping gasoline flows to Germany by way of Nord Stream 1. That occurred simply earlier than the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania visited Kyiv to push for Ukraine to be granted EU candidate standing.
DW editor Andrey Gurkov
The corporate might use related technical excuses to abruptly lower provides sooner or later. And Putin will be capable to proceed to announce supply reductions, as he did not too long ago in Tehran, when he mentioned that volumes flowing by Nord Stream 1 must be diminished to one-fifth of current capability, or that the Europeans must deliver Nord Stream 2 on-line.
It is a very humiliating scenario and one wherein the EU and notably Germany, which is especially answerable for Europeans’ present gasoline reliance on Russia and its regime, don’t have any selection however to grit their tooth and bear it to achieve time — time that can be wanted to pump as a lot gasoline as attainable into European reservoirs by winter.
Reliance on Russia to plunge from 2023 onwards
At present, gasoline storage amenities within the EU are on common 65% full, which is superb. That makes the goal of 80 to 90% in three-and-a-half months a sensible one. Poland, Sweden and Denmark have already reached this goal. In Germany, the determine is at present 65%.
There’s a likelihood of decreasing the at present exorbitant gasoline costs if the storage amenities are crammed to the utmost. However for Europeans, one thing else is taking precedence: Within the coming winter months, they should equip themselves in opposition to a elementary vitality shortfall, which might inevitably result in the restriction and even suspension of gasoline provides to industries. If that occurred, different sectors might grind to a halt. This could be a direct path to recession.
The main focus is now on the approaching winter. Issues will get higher as early as 2023 as a result of gasoline deliveries by way of pipelines from different international locations will improve considerably, new LNG terminals can be operational and several other energy-saving measures will kick in. The German authorities believes it will probably finish its dependence on Russian gasoline by the summer time of 2024.
Filling gasoline storage tanks now most vital process
However for now, the EU’s dependence on Russian gasoline continues to be too excessive, making it economically and politically susceptible and limiting its potential to assist Ukraine. Crucial process for the EU now could be to rapidly fill its gasoline storage amenities — a aim that entails placing up with Putin’s gasoline video games and even enjoying alongside.
Does Putin suppose he can use gasoline to toy round with Europe? Then let him suppose that! Does he rejoice within the phantasm that it’s going to nonetheless be attainable to revive Nord Stream 2? Then let him rejoice! Did he need the return of the Siemens turbine from Canada that he held up as an excuse for slashing gasoline flows to Germany? Returning it was the appropriate transfer! Will he want different gear for Nord Stream repairs? In such a dispute, as in an actual battle, you’ve to have the ability to quickly quit some positions to take care of your general fight functionality.
Whereas Putin is enjoying all his gasoline video games and telling Russian tv viewers that all the things goes in line with plan, EU states are filling their gasoline storage amenities daily.
Seen on this mild, the resumption of provides by way of Nord Stream 1, albeit in a severely restricted kind, represents an vital late-stage victory for the Europeans. They’ve gained time and at the least some gasoline deliveries.
This opinion piece was initially written in Russian