Oct 8, 2021
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“Shift responsibility”: why the US accused Russia of using the European gas crisis

US Congressman Michael McCall accused Moscow of manipulating the European gas market and using the acute energy crisis on the continent for its own purposes. In his opinion, in this way the Russian Federation is allegedly trying to force the EU countries to speed up the process of certification of the Russian pipeline Nord Stream 2. In this regard, he called on the US administration to expand sanctions against the project. Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that the completion of the certification of the gas pipeline would cool the current situation on the gas market. According to experts, accusations against Moscow related to the European gas crisis do not stand up to scrutiny, since the Russian Federation is fulfilling all its obligations.

Republican congressman from the US House Foreign Relations Committee Michael McCall accused Russia of manipulating the European gas market and using the acute energy crisis on the continent for their own purposes. McCall’s statement is posted on the committee’s page.

“President Biden and Chancellor Merkel have pledged to take action if Russia tries to use energy as a weapon. However, both (the leader. – RT) turn a blind eye to the deliberate attempts of the Putin regime to force Europe to accelerate the certification process of the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline by manipulating the European gas market and using the acute energy crisis on the continent for their own purposes, “McCall said.

In this regard, he called on the US administration to expand sanctions against Nord Stream 2.

“Unless the Biden administration immediately lifts the waiver of critical sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and stops the pipeline, he (Biden. – RT) will present the Russian president with one more weapon of harmful influence for use against Ukraine and our other European partners, ”the congressman said.

As the press service of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations explains, McCall made this statement in response to a comment by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak about Nord Stream 2.

As a reminder, on October 6, at a meeting on energy development, Novak expressed confidence that the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline certification and the growth in gas trading volumes on Gazprom’s electronic trading platform would cool the current situation on the gas market.

“In my opinion, there are two factors that could cool the current situation somewhat. First of all, this is the earliest completion of certification and obtaining permission to pump gas through the completed Nord Stream 2. This would send a positive signal. And the second thing. If it were possible and expedient – to supply additional volumes of exchange trading of gas on the electronic trading exchange in St. Petersburg, at least small volumes that could bring down the speculative effect, ”he said.

However, the US Congress called Nord Stream 2 a project of “harmful Russian influence”, claiming that the Kremlin was allegedly “holding back gas supplies to Europe, resulting in a sharp rise in gas prices and low reserves ahead of winter across the continent.”

  • Construction of Nord Stream 2
  • AFP
  • © Odd ANDERSEN

“Several adverse factors”

The press service of the US Congressional Committee draws attention to the fact that Novak’s comments were made on the same day as the statement of Russian President Vladimir Putin about the potential readiness of Gazprom to increase supplies to Europe.

Recall that at a meeting on the development of energy, the head of Russia said that Gazprom in 2021 could update the record for gas supplies to European countries.

According to him, the Russian side has always been and is a reliable supplier of gas to its consumers all over the world, including in Europe, fulfilling all its obligations in full. The Russian leader also cited specific figures showing continued significant fuel supplies to Europe.

“2018 was a record year for us, for deliveries to non-CIS countries, first of all, we are talking about Europe, of course, because deliveries to the Asian region, while they are extremely small and do not have any significant impact on these figures. So, 2018 – 201.7 billion cubic meters. m, record. 2019 – slightly less due to requests from our partners, 199.4 billion cubic meters. m. 2020, pandemic, production cut in Europe – 179.35 billion cubic meters. 2021 is the year of economic recovery. In the first nine months of this year, a plus to last year 18.8 billion cubic meters. m – this is plus 15% to the same period last year, and if this rate continues, we can reach another record level of supplies of our energy resources to Europe, including gas, ”Putin said.

The Russian President also spoke about the reasons for the gas crisis in Europe. According to him, in the European energy market this year “several unfavorable factors have developed simultaneously.” The first of these is the rapid post-crisis economic recovery, which has “warmed up” the demand for energy.

“Secondly, at the beginning of 2021, in many European countries, a cold winter led to a serious decrease in natural gas reserves in underground storage facilities (European partners. – RT), – said the President of Russia. “Thirdly, later, in the summer, due to the heat and calm weather, the production of wind energy was noticeably reduced.”

At the same time, Putin drew attention to the fact that over the past decade in Europe, the energy balance has changed dramatically, as many states in the region have abandoned the operation of coal and nuclear power plants in favor of weather-dependent wind energy.

“And finally, fourthly, the practice of our European partners. This practice once again confirmed that, in fact, they made mistakes. We spoke with the previous European Commission, and all of its activities were aimed at curtailing the so-called long-term contracts, was aimed at the transition to exchange gas trading. It turned out that today it has become absolutely obvious that this policy is erroneous – erroneous, since it does not take into account the specifics of the gas market due to a large number of uncertainties, ”the Russian president said.

According to Putin, all these factors led to disruptions and imbalances, as a result of which the price of gas in Europe broke all historical records.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • RIA News
  • © Alexey Druzhinin

However, despite the Russian president’s detailed explanations of the reasons for the gas crisis in Europe and Russia’s intentions to continue to increase gas supplies to European countries, EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer made a paradoxical statement in an interview with RBC that the alleged lack of response to the growing gas demand in European countries “ can be seen as an attempt to exert pressure to speed up the commissioning of Nord Stream 2.

“In my opinion, Russia’s reputation as a reliable supplier may suffer if it gets the impression that it cannot or does not want to respond to the growing demand at the moment,” he said.

The government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced that Russia allegedly deliberately cut gas supplies to Europe in order to force the European Union to approve the work of Nord Stream 2. This was reported by The Times with reference to Johnson’s spokesman.

Baseless accusations

As the Deputy Director General of the Institute of National Energy Alexander Frolov noted, all accusations against Russia related to the European gas crisis do not stand up to scrutiny: the Russian Federation has fulfilled and is fulfilling its obligations in full.

“If we proceed from the logic of, for example, the American Congressman McCall, then it turns out that in Europe gas prices are growing, because they are allegedly manipulated by the Russian Federation. But why, then, are they on the rise in other parts of the world as well? This question remains open. The answer will be extremely unpleasant for all the current leaders of Western countries: the whole point is in their erroneous energy policy, which initially laid down the prerequisites for the emergence of the situation that we are now seeing in the gas market, “the expert said in an interview with RT.

In turn, Vladimir Batyuk, head of the Center for Political-Military Studies at the Institute for the United States and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, also said that the accusations of the American senator against Russia and the theses of the EU ambassador are absurd and do not correspond to reality.

“In fact, the gas crisis in Europe was caused by a whole range of reasons, in particular the decisions of the European Commission on energy problems, Brussels’ stake on green energy, as well as the rejection of long-term gas contracts. The European gas market was also affected by the restriction of US supplies of liquefied gas to the EU, as Washington chose to increase LNG exports to Asia, where the price for it is higher than in Europe, “the analyst said in a conversation with RT.

As Frolov explained, European countries are not very attractive markets for the United States.

“They traditionally pay less for gas and consume less volumes than in Asia, for example. Therefore, the bulk of US supplies goes specifically to Asian countries, and not to Europe. At the same time, let me remind you that it was precisely the theses of increasing LNG supplies to the EU states that the American authorities used as a political trump card when they negotiated with European leaders, talking about the absence of any need to build Nord Stream 2. However, now, when Europe is so in need of a large amount of blue fuel, the United States does not remember this. After all, the current market conditions for Washington are more important than the propaganda they broadcast earlier, ”the expert said.

Now, in order to somehow neutralize its negative contribution to the gas crisis in Europe, the United States is trying to “shift the responsibility for what is happening to Russia,” Frolov added.

At the same time, experts agree that the US administration will not take any restrictive measures in relation to Nord Stream 2 in the short term.

“Biden and his entourage are well aware that if now Washington imposes any sanctions against the Russian gas pipeline, this can be extremely ambiguous in Europe, which is awaiting the onset of cold weather with horror. Most European countries are not at all ready to sacrifice the health and well-being of their compatriots for the sake of some American political games, ”Batiuk concluded.

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