In response to President Putin’s heavy-handed threats to reduce the Russian gas supply to Europe leading into the cold winter months, the governments of the European Union have reached a deal to ration natural gas this winter to protect themselves and their citizens.
According to the approved draft European law, from the months of August through March demand for gas will be reduced by 15%. To achieve this reduction, the legislation entails national steps that each state can voluntarily take to reduce its gas consumption and, should they fail to yield insufficient savings, mandatory actions in the rest of the 27-member bloc of the European Union will occur.
Though these actions come with costs, leaders are standing behind the effort to cut their gas consumption. Jozef Sikela, the Czech Industry Minister, told reporters “I know that the decision was not easy, but I think, at the end, everybody understands that this sacrifice is necessary. We have to, and we will, share the pain.” Similarly, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, stated that “the EU has taken a decisive step to face down the threat of a full gas disruption by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”
The legislation could not be better timed, as yesterday Gazprom (the Russian energy corporation) announced it would be cutting natural gas transported via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to 20% of its total capacity, leading to a jump in natural gas prices to their highest levels since March and more than five times as expensive as they were this time last year. This surge in prices is occurring at the same time that Russian soldiers have been directed to step up their efforts against Ukrainian forces.
These continued actions by President Putin and Russia represent a continued focus on using gas and oil as levers to try to achieve their goals in the Ukraine war, a conflict that has already seen atrocities, weaponizing of food and food exports, and theft on a massive scale by Russian forces. Using gas supplies in such a way leading into the European winter just goes to show this conflict is likely going to last for some time yet.