Putin threatens Europe again as Brussels braces for winter

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The EU’s vitality disaster response is getting larger, slowly. However so, too, is the menace posed by Russia’s freeze on Europe’s gasoline provide.

A brand new package deal of measures to convey down the value of gasoline and shield customers this winter and past — together with plans to totally leverage the EU’s collective shopping for energy — shall be formally proposed by the European Fee subsequent week.

However there stays uncertainty about key elements of the package deal — together with whether or not the popular intervention of many nations, an EU-wide cap on gasoline costs, shall be a part of it, and if that’s the case, in what type. It might additionally take till November to get subsequent week’s proposals totally signed off and operational, officers mentioned.

At the same time as vitality ministers deliberated over the measures in Prague on Wednesday, Russia issued new, veiled warnings in regards to the depths of Europe’s vulnerability.

Talking at an vitality convention in Moscow, the pinnacle of Gazprom Alexey Miller warned European properties might nonetheless freeze this winter despite the fact that EU nations have almost crammed their gasoline storage capability.

On the identical occasion, Vladimir Putin mentioned the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines — an act that many Western governments suspect was the work of Russia. Then he added pointedly that the incident had proven how “any important infrastructure in transport, vitality or communication infrastructure is underneath menace — no matter what a part of the world it’s situated, by whom it’s managed, laid on the seabed or on land.”

Noting that one of many pipelines remains to be probably operational after the assault, Putin insisted Russia was able to ship gasoline by it to ease Europe’s ache this winter — bringing his overarching technique of gasoline blackmail towards Europe proper updated.

“The ball, as they are saying, is on the aspect of the European Union. If they need it, allow them to simply open the faucet,” Putin mentioned. “We’re prepared to provide extra volumes within the autumn-winter interval.”

Putin should still be hoping that when the truth of winter with out Russian gasoline begins to chunk, European governments shall be extra open to such overtures ­— and extra keen to rein in assist for Ukraine in alternate for an vitality lifeline.

For the EU’s half, Power Commissioner Kadri Simson was clear that whereas the bloc confronted “troublesome instances,” nations would face up to the challenges forward in the event that they “act collectively, decisively and in solidarity.”

Talking on the shut of an off-the-cuff summit of EU vitality ministers on Wednesday, she added that the following disaster package deal can even include a proposal for a brand new benchmark worth for gasoline and additional measures to cut back demand throughout the bloc.

However whereas a row over capping the value of gasoline has dominated the talk in current weeks, momentum has shifted to the concept of joint buying on the worldwide market. It’s hoped that by this measure the bloc can keep away from the scenario seen this 12 months when member states outbid each other for provides when filling gasoline storage amenities ­— driving up the value for all.

Putin threatens Europe again as Brussels braces for winter
European Commissioner for Power Kadri Simson | John Thys/AFP through Getty Pictures

In an off-the-cuff coverage paper issued on Wednesday, Germany and the Netherlands set how such a measure might work, by beefing up the present EU Power Platform, which was established months in the past however then barely used. Efforts to purchase gasoline collectively needs to be coupled with higher EU-wide coordination of gasoline storage subsequent 12 months, the German and Dutch paper mentioned.

The proposals level to the extent to which the EU is not merely planning how one can survive this winter with out rolling blackouts. It’s now firmly planning for a disaster subsequent winter too.

Government Director of the Worldwide Power Company Fatih Birol, who additionally attended Wednesday’s summit in Prague, warned ministers that “the following winter could be much more troublesome.”

That message was echoed in a sobering briefing from the EU Company for the Cooperation of Power Regulators, which outlined how difficult 2023 and probably 2024 may very well be for the bloc’s vitality provide. Amid an anticipated surge in demand in Asia for liquefied pure gasoline (LNG), the EU will face higher competitors for restricted LNG provides from sources such because the U.S. and Qatar.

Briefly, each molecule of gasoline that is still in European storage after this winter could be very important — and Vladimir Putin is aware of it.

Victor Jack and America Hernandez supplied extra reporting.

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