Russia can increase gas supplies to Europe as soon as Germany approves the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline, President Vladimir Putin said, underlining Moscow’s conditions for help to resolve the continent’s energy crisis.
Putin said Gazprom, the Kremlin’s gas monopoly, could increase flows by an extra 17.5bn cubic metres via the new pipeline “the day after tomorrow” if regulators approved it “tomorrow.”
The amount, equal to roughly 10 per cent of the gas Russia shipped to Europe and Turkey in 2020, would provide significant additional supplies at a time of record prices in Europe, even before the pipe’s second line is fully filled in December.
But it is also likely to provoke anger that Russia clearly believes it has gas in reserve but is making its delivery to Europe contingent on Nord Stream 2 being approved.
The US and several eastern European countries say Russia wants to use the $10bn pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine, as a geopolitical weapon to increase the EU’s dependence on Moscow while costing Kyiv transit revenues from traditional supply routes.
But Putin said that EU energy policy was being made by “non-specialists” who were “deceiving voters” and said the world could avoid future crises if it focused on “fundamental projects” such as Nord Stream 2 instead of spot market trading.
Russia has faced growing criticism in recent weeks because it has not made additional supplies to Europe available, despite hints from Putin that he would act to cool the crisis.
Critics have blamed Russia for not making any additional sales of gas available to European customers this year, beyond those secured through long-term contracts. Gazprom has also let its own storage facilities in Europe fall to very low levels, heightening fears of shortages of supplies in the event of a cold winter.
The surge in energy bills in Europe is expected to be high on the agenda at a summit of EU leaders that started in Brussels on Thursday.
Putin blamed the gas crisis on what he said were short-sighted attempts by the EU to switch from long-term contracts to the spot market and increase the share of renewables in the energy mix.
As a result, Putin argued, US and Middle Eastern liquefied natural gas producers had reduced supplies to Europe, which he claimed had created a shortage of 70bn cubic meters that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s planned capacity of 55bn cubic meters could help resolve.
“When the Europeans set up their market principles, they were basing them on it being a high-end market. And it’s not — the gas went to Latin America and Asia,” he said. “What’s that got to do with Russia? This is the result handmade by the European Commission’s economic policy.”
Putin said that Gazprom had already increased supplies to Europe by 11bn cubic meters so far this year.
Industry analysts have said that more Russian gas is flowing to Turkey, which Gazprom counts as Europe, than before the pandemic, but not into its main markets in western Europe, which have been traditionally supplied via Ukraine and lines through Poland.