Russia is using gas as a political weapon to assert itself in ongoing disputes with Europe, particularly over Ukraine. The head of the International Energy Agency launched the bomb, Fatih Birol. For the executive director of the Parisian organization that provides policy recommendations on accessible and sustainable energy, the worsening of the natural gas crisis in Europe has only one principal: Russia. According to Birol, in fact, the high prices and low storage levels are the direct consequence – at least in large part – of the behavior of the gas supplier Gazprom, a Russian energy company partially controlled by the state. The clear and detailed accusation: Russia could send up to a third more gas through existing pipelines, but it doesn’t. That would be around 10% of Europe’s daily consumption, the amount that would be needed to avoid a severe gas shortage if freezing temperatures were to last longer than expected. During the press conference on January 12, reporters pressed Birol, who, in order not to lose his balance, avoiding directly saying that Russia is using gas to put political pressure on Western Europe.
Deposits only 50% full
The gas levels in the underground storage are lonely at 50% of their capacity, compared to the historical average of 70% at this time of the yearAnd that sent gas prices skyrocketing. The cold winter of last year contributed to the reduction in Europe’s gas stocks, as well as a decline in energy from renewables and strong summer demand for liquid gas in Asia.
But in the face of this crisis situation, Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan are increasing their supplies to Europe, while Gazprom reduced its exports to the continent in the fourth quarter by 25% compared to a year ago. And this despite the high market prices, as Birol pointed out to reporters. For his part, the Russian president Vladimir Putin He explained that Gazprom has fulfilled its obligations under long-term contracts, blaming European decisions for rising gas prices, which would have preferred to move in an environment of volatile short-term market prices. Moreover, according to Putin, Germany would have resold Russian gas to Poland and Ukraine rather than come to the rescue of its own market.
Russia moves troops to the Ukrainian border
Meanwhile, Russia has moved thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine and has asked that the country led by Volodymyr Zelenskyj be permanently excluded from NATO. Another Putin request that the European Union approve – amid protests from Ukraine, Poloani and the United States – the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which bypasses some countries and brings natural gas directly to Europe. In short, these tensions on Ukraine have direct repercussions on the supply of gas to Europe, as Birol himself pointed out. Uncertainty over price and supply remains high, with most of the winter still to come. And the situation is becoming more and more worrying.