Can Europe survive without Russian gas? The answer to that question is yes. However, that does not change the fact that there would be unprecedented hardship in Europe if Russia finally cuts its gas supply to the rest of the continent.
Recent events have indicated restlessness in the EU, as the bloc is scared of an abrupt stoppage in energy supplies. The EU is now considering cutting gas usage by 15% until at least 2023. This move came after fears that Russia might not reopen the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which supplies the bloc with at least 40% of its gas. Recall that last week, Russia suspended supplies to Germany, citing the regular repair of the line. Read More
In a tweet on Wednesday, the President of the EU accused Russia of using gas as a weapon, and there was a need to reduce gas usage among EU countries.
“Russia is using gas as a weapon. We have to address our energy security at EU level. We learnt from the pandemic that if we act in unity, we can address any crisis. So let’s act together to reduce gas use and provide a safety net for all EU countries,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
Although Russia has not publicly admitted a permanent closure of the Nord Stream pipeline, the Europeans are scared that sooner or later, Putin could suddenly end the supply. During President Putin’s visit to Iran, he hinted at a possible reduction of the quantity of gas supplied to Europe. Although the controversial turbine is on its way from Canada, the Russian leader said the quality of the equipment after the repair could either cause a reduction in the quantity of the gas supply or at some point, Nord Stream 1 could stop supplying gas.
“Now they are saying that they will return these machines, at least one of them. But in which quality will they be returned? What are the technical parameters after this repair, which is planned?” Putin said. “Maybe… they will turn it off at some point, and that’s it, and Nord Stream 1 will stop, because they came from there, from Canada.”
Putin did not elaborate on the issue, but his statement indicates that Russia could be planning a subtle disaster for Europe. It is either the gas lines would not be reopened, or Russia would reduce the quantity of gas supplied through the Nord Stream 1.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin announced that gas supplies to China reached an all-time high, as the country is working hard to increase gas supplies to the Asian Country. With more such demands for Russian gas, the only reason Russia is supplying gas to Europe is likely because the Kremlin does not have enough customers to buy the product. Once Russia gets that, Europe could be begging for leftover gas.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that an EU official said a “full disruption is likely.”
“If we wait, it will be more expensive, and it will mean us dancing to Russia’s tune,” the official said. Despite assurances from Russia that the Nord Stream 1 would resume gas supplies as scheduled, a preventive measure was necessary at this point.
With the handwriting on the wall, it would be suicidal for the EU to decide on Russian energy only after Russia has cut its supplies. Hence the urgent need to reduce the usage of gas.
The EU will now meet on Tuesday to discuss the proposed reduction in gas usage. The move will need the approval of member states, and a consensus is unlikely. The issue has been divisive among the European Nations after the search for alternative sources of gas and oil is not yielding any meaningful results. Tuesday could be another day for debates and counter debates.
While many are wondering if Russia would cut gas supplies to Europe, they should be more bothered about when Russia would cut the supplies.