On December 29, 2021, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak announced the condition of Russia’s ability to send natural gas to Europe in desired quantities. Making evaluations on the subject, Novak said:
“In physical terms, we are ready to increase production and supply volumes. Russia’s resources make it possible to meet the demand of European consumers in any amount. But, of course, this is not a quick process, since the EU policy sought to reduce the demand. Gazprom needs long-term contracts, as the growth in production requires large investments, which should pay off over the longer term. Make long-term contracts, and we will be ready to supply more. This offer is always open.”
For many years, Moscow has been struggling seriously for the European energy market. As it is known, Russia is the biggest energy supplier of Europe and does not want to miss this trump. Russia meets about 30% of Europe’s natural gas imports. However, security problems in Europe have led Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian’s natural gas.
In fact, it is known that Europe has been looking for alternative sources to Russian natural gas for many years. One of them is the NABUCCO project, which took a large place on the agenda in the 2000s. However, it was difficult to find a “reliable supplier” in order for the mentioned pipeline project to become realize. This has led to the continuation of dependence on Russian energy resources. It has been observed that the dependence on Russia has also been effective in the energy crisis in Europe in recent months.
In essence, Russia’s energy policy towards Europe is only one of the reasons for the increase in natural gas prices. Russia triggered the problem in Europe, causing it to turn into a crisis. Of course, while doing this, it took care of own interests. In this sense, it consciously took advantage of the opportunity that stand in front.
Russia gradually reduced some of the natural gas it exports to Europe during the periods when natural gas prices in Europe started to rise and during the coldest days in Europe, and then decided to cut off the flow of the Yamal-Europe pipeline completely. This has led to a rapid increase in natural gas prices.
Russia’s use of such a method is related to its own goals. Perhaps the most significant goal in this regard is to make Europe’s dependence on Russia sustainable. In this context, the Moscow administration expects agreements that offer long-term guarantees to them.
At the same time, this expectation is also related to the implementation of the Nord Stream-2 Project. Europe clearly states that the Nord Stream-2 Project does not coincide with the interests of the continent. In addition, the fact that the Green Party is the ruler partner in Germany has strengthened this critical approach. Two important events have occurred in recent months, such as the increased risk of war on the Ukraine-Russia border and the outbreak of the refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. European states blamed Russia in every incident. In this environment, it was perceived as a reasonable move to suspend the Nord Stream-2 Project and to reduce energy relations with Russia. Moscow, on the other hand, tried to prevent the process of exclusion from the European energy market.
The second reason for the increase in natural gas prices in Europe, as Novak mentioned, is the policy of Europe to reduce natural gas consumption. Europe’s long-term energy strategy foresees switching to renewable energy sources. However, while European states want to move on to this process quickly; ignores other factors. For example, these countries have reduced the natural gas they import from Russia and thus entered the winter season without filling their natural gas reserves sufficiently.
As a result, it can be said that Russia effectively uses its energy card against Europe. Thus, Moscow has shown that it is an actor that can affect energy prices in Europe. But the USA is also a serious actor that can affect energy prices in Europe. For this reason, while Russia is the losing side of the process; the USA has become a state that has gained a reputation in Europe. Russia’s policies are aimed at putting Europe in a difficult situation. Playing active role of The USA, on the other hand, is regarded as a “crisis solver” by directing LNG (liquefied natural gas) tankers going to Asia to Europe, and thus came to the fore as the party that solved the energy problem of Europe. More importantly, although Russia wanted to establish itself as a “reliable energy supplier” for many years, after the recent events, it has done great harm to the image it wanted to build in this direction with its own hands. Therefore, it can be predicted that Europe will approach Russia more cautiously from now on and will take concrete steps to reduce its energy dependency.