Europeans are preparing for a winter without Russian gas

It’s not yet panic among Europeans, but it’s starting to look like it. Because, in terms of energy, Moscow is the master of the clocks, which rations its gas deliveries to the Old Continent, sells it at exorbitant prices and drop by drop its fossil energy. On Monday, July 11, the Russian company Gazprom will begin a maintenance operation for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which will largely deprive them of its services. It is a routine exercise. But, from Paris to Berlin, via Rome, there are concerns that at its end, on July 21, the Russian giant will take the pretext of such and such a problem to completely interrupt its supplies.

The winter, in this case, could be harsh, since, before Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine on February 24, Russian gas represented 40% of imports from the European Union (EU). According to a study by the Bruegel think tank published on July 7, the Twenty-Seven should reduce their gas consumption by 15% compared to before the war, if Moscow were to interrupt its deliveries, and this in the event that the season would not be too rigorous. For France and its Italian and Spanish neighbours, which are well interconnected, the case would be of no consequence. On the other hand, for Germany, it would mean a fall of 29% in its demand and for the Baltic States of 54%.

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“We must be prepared for further disruptions in gas supply, or even a complete shutdown from Russia”warned Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, in front of the Parliament of Strasbourg, on July 6. “It wouldn’t be a big surprise if [Gazprom] say: “We can’t restart [Nord Stream 1]a problem was detected during maintenance operations”had alerted Robert Habeck, the German vice-chancellor, on June 30. “Putin will tell us: you can always use Nord Stream 2”fears a senior official, while Berlin, after procrastinating for a long time, has finally decided not to put the new gas pipeline into service.

Cut or reduced deliveries

One thing is certain, no one in Europe today is talking about a gas embargo. Until the end of May, the question nevertheless animated the debates between those, like Poland or the Baltic States, who considered it inadmissible that the Twenty-Seven were financing Putin’s war by buying him hydrocarbons, and those who, like the Germany, feared the consequences of such a sanction on their economy.

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