Tuesday

29th Nov 2022

Putin underlines EU gas needs amid Ukraine threat

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin (Photo: kremlin.ru)
Listen to article

Russia has underlined Europe's dependence on its gas, while keeping EU powers guessing over its next move on Ukraine.

Germany was to blame for record-high gas prices in Europe because it was trying to profit from Poland and Ukraine instead of shipping gas further west, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said at his end-of-year TV press conference on Thursday (23 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"They turned this route [the Yamal pipeline from Russia to Germany] into reverse from Germany to Poland ... Why? Because we supply gas to Germany under long-term contracts and the price is three-to-four, [even] six-to-seven times cheaper than on spot [markets]. Just reselling 1 billion cubic metres one can earn $1 billion," he said.

"Instead of shipping gas to Poland and then to Ukraine ... wouldn't it be better to ship it further to Europe and impact the spot price?", he added.

His comments had the usual intention of trying to drive a wedge between EU allies.

But they also drew attention to Europe's vulnerability to Russian gas cut-offs in the event of a new invasion of Ukraine.

The EU and US have warned that if Putin ordered new aggression they would strike at Russian energy exports, including by shutting down Russia's new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

But their warnings come amid a gas-supply crunch in Europe which many have said was engineered by Russia as part of its "hybrid" tactics on the Ukraine conflict.

And for his part, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has also said the EU warnings sounded like a bluff given market conditions.

"What deterrence [against Russia] can Europe deploy?", he said in Rome on Wednesday.

"Do we have missiles, ships, cannons, armies? At the moment, no ... We Europeans have at most some sort of economic deterrence," he noted.

"But even here, we need to think a moment. If we want to impose sanctions that also include gas ... are we really capable of doing it in a strong enough fashion at the right moment? Clearly the answer is: 'No'," Draghi said.

For their part, France and Germany also spoke out on Thursday, urging all parties to stop fighting in east Ukraine.

"We urge the sides to respect the ceasefire and to continue discussions on further steps in the humanitarian field, e.g. the opening of crossing points and the exchange of detainees," the French and German foreign ministries said.

The EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell likewise urged dialogue. "The EU believes that dialogue, negotiation, and cooperation are the only means to overcome disputes," Borrell said.

They spoke after Putin surged troops to Ukraine's border and demanded that Nato pulled out its forces from eastern Europe.

Russia and the US aimed to start talks on the security crisis in January, while EU states were to take part via parallel discussions in Nato and in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

And in the meantime, Putin continued to keep the West guessing on his next move.

"This [conflict with the West] is not our [preferred] choice, we do not want this," he said on Thursday.

But Nato had "brazenly tricked" Russia after the end of the Cold War by expanding further east, he added.

"There should be no further Nato movement to the east. The ball is in their court, they should answer us with something," he said.

"You must give us guarantees, and immediately - now," Putin said.

Russian mercenaries

His forces, the same day, conducted drills designed to simulate seizure of extra Ukrainian territory.

And Russian mercenaries had begun deploying in Russia-occupied east Ukraine in ever greater numbers, Russian sources told the Reuters news agency.

"There is a full house. They are gathering everybody with combat experience," one Russian source said.

"The current deployments are versatile. They keep Russia's options open and therefore keep the defender guessing," Keir Giles, an associate fellow at London's Chatham House think-tank, said.

Meanwhile, Nato has put its rapid reaction forces in eastern Europe on high alert in case any new conflict spread beyond Ukraine's borders, according to German daily Die Welt.

And "it's possible that in case of escalation [in Ukraine], or, if we see that Belarus could be finally occupied [by Russia], extra Nato troops could be deployed in Lithuania," Lithuania's defence chief, lieutenant general Valdemaras Rupsys, told Lithuanian news website 15 minutes on Thursday.

EU warns against Ukraine talks without Europe

The German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock warned in Washington that "it is out of the question, and let me make this very clear - there cannot be a decision on the security in Europe without Europe."

Opinion

Even without war, Russia has defeated Europe already

Invasion is unlikely to be Vladimir Putin's preferred option. Yet this game of brinkmanship has another part of the equation. If Russia invades Ukraine, the costs for Europe will be equally devastating.

Nato seeks Russia meeting in January

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has sought a meeting of the Nato-Russia council for 12 January, but so far has not received a positive answer from Moscow.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Legal scholars: Prosecuting Putin 'legally problematic'
  2. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  3. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  4. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  5. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  6. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  7. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  8. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us