Gas has been a weapon for Russia for a long time, but “this has not been seen before”, says researcher

Russia has strained relations between European nations throughout the twenty-first century by threatening to cut off gas supplies to some and providing cheap gas to others.

The perception in Europe that the Baltic Sea gas pipeline leaks were caused by sabotage is growing stronger after the initial confusion.

Although no nation has yet identified the offender or even a suspect, Russia is widely believed to be the prime suspect.

According to Mikael Wigell, research director at the Foreign Policy Institute, if it comes out that Russia was responsible for the sabotage, it would indicate that the nation will implement an entirely new set of techniques.

“If it turns out that Russia has intentionally damaged the pipes, that is a novel tactic. This has never happened before, “quoting Wigell

The presence of three leak spots and the distance of 75 kilometers between them support purposeful destruction. Strong constructions that take a lot of force to shatter include steel pipes with concrete coating that have been installed to the bottom of the sea. According to Swedish and German police, explosions were found close to the pipelines before the leaks began.

Wigell asserts that the aim of the pipeline sabotage could be to undercut Ukraine’s support and dismantle the EU embargo front.

“Russia is warning Europe that it is capable of causing serious harm. In the North Sea, there are several pipelines and data cables, and Russia is indicating that they are in jeopardy.”

There were deals that were especially advantageous for Germany, which Russia sought to ally with.

Striking at energy infrastructure would be unusual, but Russia has a long history of utilizing energy as a tool of influence. The tools have only gotten softer up till now. Wigell discusses geo-economic influence, in which commercial concerns are used to mask strategic agendas.

The two types of influencing tools are a stick and a carrot.

Keppi, for instance, refers to regulating gas supplies. Throughout the twenty-first century, Russia has employed this strategy. In 2006, 2009, and 2014, Ukraine experienced interruptions in its gas supply. Gas disputes have often been formalized as being about gas prices or Ukraine’s gas bills, but academics believe the problems have political roots.

The conflict that resulted in the 2006 interruption of gas supply started soon after Ukraine’s pro-Western administration was installed following the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Due to the fact that pipelines through Ukraine carry a sizable portion of the Russian natural gas that is shipped to Europe, Ukraine was not the only country to experience gas supply disruptions.

When Russia stopped all shipments through Ukraine in January 2009, several Eastern European nations had difficulties. For instance, thousands of homes in Bulgaria were left without heat during a particularly severe frost.

Nevertheless, the reliability of Gazprom as a gas supplier was reiterated across Europe even this year. What makes it possible?

Wigell explains, “To grasp that, you have to understand that carrot.”

For some nations and businesses, the carrot represents inexpensive gas and alluring energy contracts.

“Some European businesses were very deliberately linked to Russia. On the other hand, the businesses are aggressive lobbyists. They had a significant financial stake in producing, demonstrating that this is just a matter of good business and has nothing to do with strategy.”

There were deals that were especially advantageous for Germany, which Russia sought to ally with.

According to Wigell, the energy weapon’s “carrot” side was only gradually appreciated in Europe after the seizure of Crimea.

How the EU responded differently to the first and second gas pipeline projects in the Baltic Sea serves as a good example of this perspective. The preparation for Nord Stream 1 actually began in 2006, and building didn’t encounter much opposition in Europe until 2010.

For Nord Stream 2, it was different.

A year after the annexation of Crimea, the project began in the fall of 2015, and it was thought that the new pipeline project was reducing the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia. By lessening Ukraine’s significance as a gas transit nation and supplying gas to Germany directly, critics said that Russia aimed to isolate Ukraine.

The proposal received harsh criticism from the European Commission and countries in Eastern Europe.

Up until the start of the Great War in Ukraine, Germany and European businesses defended the pipeline project with commercial justifications.

Wigell finds it noteworthy that Europe took so long to realize the nature of Russia’s energy resources.

“It’s odd because Russia’s own doctrines and strategies make a compelling case for the use of energy as a tactical weapon. Not much subtlety has been used.”

They have now seen a renaissance after years of ignoring the cautions of scientists and some politicians.

When Gazprom began to restrict the supply of gas through Nord Stream 1 in June, Germany, which Russia had previously offered as the carrot of its energy weapon, received its fair share of the stick.

It soon brought Germany’s Uniper, a significant purchaser of Russian gas and a significant funder of Nord Stream 2, to the verge of insolvency. In the end, even Klaus Dieter Maubach, CEO of Uniper, rejected his previous beliefs:

“Russia is not a trustworthy source. Russia, on the other hand, is purposefully undermining the cohesiveness of the West by utilizing gas supplies.”

Let’s choose August 17, 2022—the day of Maubach’s news conference—as the demise of the philosophy. Two broken pipelines are still at the bottom of the Baltic Sea more than a month later, standing as a symbol of an unrepairable relationship.

By Editor

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