The Kremlin is spending hundreds of millions of euros for energy coercion of Ukraine and the EU into dependence on the Russian Federation – UNIAN

President of the Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI” Mikhail Gonchar told UNIAN in an interview with UNIAN whether there will be enough gas in the Ukrainian gas storage facilities for the winter, how Germany has finally ceased to be ashamed of its loyalty to Nord Stream 2 and when the Kremlin can cut off the transit of “blue fuel” through Ukraine.

Let’s start with the main thing – the Ukrainian authorities, and this was confirmed by the Office of the President, in connection with the energy crisis in the EU, they offered Russia a 50% discount on gas transit to Europe, the volume of which will exceed the contractual 40 billion cubic meters per year. What should be expected from this initiative?

This is an exquisite move by energy diplomacy to get the European Commission to pay attention to Gazprom’s non-profit behavior.

As for Russia, this proposal is into the void. If Gazprom adhered to the commercial rules of the game on the market, then this proposal would certainly be interesting to it. But since gas is the Kremlin’s weapon, it is possible to offer a discount of at least 90%, for him it does not matter. Despite the current situation, Gazprom does not pump additional volumes of gas through our GTS, although this is regulated by the 2019 agreement. That is, Russia pumps less gas, but pays for the full volume. The Kremlin is spending several hundred million euros in losses to achieve the main goal – energy coercion of Ukraine and the EU countries into dependence on the Russian Federation.

Germany has already announced that it is ready to discuss Ukraine’s proposal to transport additional volumes of gas from Russia under special conditions. But at the same time, they stressed that it is necessary to talk about maintaining transit through our country closer to the end of the contract with the Russian Federation – on the eve of 2024. In general, Ukraine needs to actively tackle the transition to hydrogen energy. What does this German reaction mean?

This is the perfectly expected and predicted reaction of Germany. Like – say you are not bothering us. They answered diplomatically – we will consider the proposal, but it would be better to deal with hydrogen.

The words and actions of official Berlin are both insidious and meanness both in relation to us and, by the way, in relation to neighboring Poland, a member of the EU and NATO, which is categorically against the launch of Nord Stream 2. The elections in Germany have passed. But there is no new government yet – only the process of forming a coalition is underway. There is no need to live an illusion. Whatever the surname of the new chancellor, whatever his party affiliation, is unlikely to change anything. Gazprom is always a priority there, proceeding from the interests of the schroderized German politician.

The certification procedure for Nord Stream 2 is underway. Earlier it was said that it could take six months. But Germany has already taken a step towards a positive solution to this issue, saying that the pipeline does not threaten the security of the EU’s gas supply. Here’s some interesting news …

I believe that Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries should act in the same way as before – use all mechanisms together / Photo from UNIAN

Earlier it was not necessary to count on the active support of Ukraine from Germany, and now it is not necessary. The latest decision of the German Ministry of Economy and Energy regarding Nord Stream 2 is a confirmation of this. They could at least link SP-2 and the transit of gas through Ukraine, as the outgoing Merkel promised many times. And that would be in line with the Association Agreement, since Germany is a signatory party. But the interests of the same shredded politicians took over.

That is, Nord Stream 2 will start working soon?

It’s not about whether it works or not. The main thing is how to build up the opposition further. I believe that Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries should act in the same way as before – jointly use all mechanisms so that this gas pipeline does not work at full capacity. Although it is clear that the current European Union is a “paper tiger” in this matter. It is necessary to concentrate on ensuring that this Russian project does not have a quiet life. As happened with Nord Stream 1, with the OPAL gas pipeline, when Poland’s 5-year opposition to Putin’s pipeline won. All the more so now Russia has “substituted itself” using gas as a weapon.

Returning to the special conditions for additional transit: the NSDC instructed the government to determine a discount on the transportation of additional volumes of gas to European countries in the amount of at least 55 billion cubic meters. But will Russia agree to this?

This is an adequate statement. By the way, it was made to compare with the capacity of Nord Stream 2 – also 55 billion cubic meters. In general, we have about 90 billion cubic meters of free transit capacity. All of the above is interconnected. That is, we say to the EU – demand from Russia to use the available capacities of the Ukrainian GTS, which can resolve the energy crisis on the European market.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, made a very interesting statement the other day: “Gazprom fulfilled its long-term obligations, although it did not react to the increased demand, as it did in previous years.” What is happening is, supposedly, the pressing problems of the market. She did not speak out categorically about the possible reasons for this behavior of Gazprom. What does it mean?

The head of the European Commission really did not make at least some transparent allusion to the “tricks” of the Kremlin “Gazprom”. Although, what is happening on the market is nothing more than the use of gas weapons by Russia. Instead of putting the Kremlin in its place, the European Commission will “buzz”. The EC should not take a contemplative position, it should have required Gazprom to use the Ukrainian GTS for additional gas supplies. Which, by the way, would be consistent with the spirit and letter of the Association Agreement.

Knowing the “mentality” of Russia, is it worth expecting that, without waiting for the completion of the contract in 2024, Gazprom may at any time block the transit of gas through Ukraine?

Yes. It really can happen at any moment.

But then, what are we going to do? The head of Naftogaz, Yuri Vitrenko, said that several options are currently being considered – the supply of reverse gas from Slovakia, Romania and Poland. A separate emphasis is placed on Romania. Which is the most realistic option?

Historically, the

Historically, the “gas road” from Siberia to Europe went through Ukraine and Slovakia / photo

I don’t think Romanian. Romania in 2015 became self-sufficient in terms of gas. But this did not last long. Then I started importing it in small quantities. Imports today have reached about 1 billion cubic meters, but this is with an annual consumption of about 11.5 billion cubic meters, that is, the volume of imports of 9% does not give a critical dependence.

In our case, it is unlikely that we will talk about the practical purchase of gas from Romania. They don’t have much gas surplus.

But it doesn’t matter where the gas comes from. It is important that traders have a resource. Gas supplies are the result of commercial agreements between the entities, plus technical agreements between transport operators.

And with whom is it most profitable for Ukraine to sign “gas” agreements?

You cannot say that, because we are talking about the spot market. It changes depending on the quotes. The direction of delivery is determined depending on the logistic leverage and the availability of free capacities in the pipe for a particular transaction. The most capacious is the Slovak direction. Historically, the “gas road” from Siberia to Europe ran through Ukraine and Slovakia. The Ukrainian-Slovak corridor has the largest pipeline capacities.

Previously, the “gas” business with Hungary was profitable. But Russia has reformatted its gas relations with that country. Budapest has received “an offer that does not refuse.” And when Putin, Miller (the head of Gazprom) and Orban (the Hungarian prime minister) explain what happened by the fact that they will work directly and this is economically profitable, then everything looks ridiculous. Where is Yamal, where is the Black Sea coast of Russia and where is Hungary? This is not a direct supply. This is pure manipulation and a purely political decision.

But if we take into account the current situation with the fuel shortage in Europe, then the matter is not in the direction of procurement. There are simply difficulties with the purchase itself – you cannot buy something that is not in abundance. Therefore, several options for gas supplies are being voiced at once. Whoever has it will buy it there. Speaking of Romania, there is a problem with Moldova.

As they say, from here in more detail. Due to Gazprom’s refusal to conclude a new contract for the supply of gas to Chisinau (allegedly due to debts), a state of emergency has been declared in the country. In response to the appeal of the Moldovan authorities, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to consider the issue of allocating a certain amount of gas to this country to overcome the crisis situation. Gas will allegedly be put on debt. Isn’t this revenue critical for us?

What Gazprom is doing with Moldova now is gas blackmailing the Kremlin to achieve political goals: overthrowing or taming the country’s pro-European government. A very illustrative example of the direction of Russia. The Kremlin’s strategy, which is being implemented through Gazprom, is to impose its own game. And the old principle is applied – divide and conquer. In a one-on-one dialogue, Russia, represented by Gazprom, always has a “weight” advantage. The current winter period will be decisive – who will win whom: the power of European law, the principle of EU energy solidarity (spelled out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU), or Gazprom’s individual approach to each EU member, when one is offered carrots and the other is offered a stick. It is clear that it is unacceptable for Russia to dictate its terms to Europe, but not everyone in Europe understands this.

As for gas supplies to Moldova from Ukraine, the volumes are minimal. This will not be critical for us. And there are agreements – gas for gas. In this issue, Ukraine is just demonstrating the principle of solidarity between associated partners.

What Gazprom is doing with Moldova now is the Kremlin's gas blackmail to achieve political goals / Photo from UNIAN

What Gazprom is doing with Moldova now is the Kremlin’s gas blackmail to achieve political goals / Photo from UNIAN

Why is the European Union reacting so “quietly” to our solidarity position spelled out in the Association Agreement?

The European Commission is a very inert mechanism. It seems that only today in Brussels they saw what is happening on the energy market. The EC said they would study the situation. But how long this “study” will take is unknown, and it is necessary to react immediately.

It should be noted that, fortunately, Naftogaz has no debts to Gazprom, since relations with it ended on November 26, 2015. And so the debt “whip” would have been applied to Ukraine.

In Ukraine, in connection with the start of the heating season, gas extraction from storage facilities began. At the same time, UGS facilities are only 59% full, and pumping into storage facilities has been stopped since October 4. In your opinion, we will go through the winter calmly?

Everyone is puzzled by this question, not only in Ukraine. Nobody knows the answer yet. It all depends on how cold the winter is. The available gas should be enough for us. Many have forgotten the statistics of past years. In the period from 2013 to 2018 inclusive, we met the winter season with a gas level in UGS facilities of 14.5-17.2 billion cubic meters. Now we have 18.4 billion cubic meters.

The problem is different – the same president, the same government stepping on the same rake every year. Last year there was also an acute problem with a shortage of coal, as it is now. But the lesson was not learned. And when there is little coal, more gas is burned, and again someone wants to get hooked on the supply of electricity from Belarus and Russia. And this is with the risk that these supplies may be interrupted at the peak of cold weather as a result of deliberate actions by the Russian Federation. After all, she did not abandon her aggressive steps towards Ukraine.

The fuel problem is always more acute in the second half of winter. Gas, of course, can be raised from the underground storage facilities, but the pressure, unfortunately, is not the same. At the same time, what will happen on the EU market is unknown. But it is clear that it will be difficult for everyone. That is, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.


Nana Black

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