Russia is suggesting that it will not go out of its way to provide more gas to European consumers in order to alleviate the current energy crisis unless it receives regulatory clearance to begin exports through the controversial Nord Stream 2 project.
According to sources close to state-owned gas giant Gazprom and the Kremlin, Russia wants German and European Union clearance to start utilizing the pipeline to Europe in exchange for increased supply.
Konstantin Kosachyov, a top pro-Kremlin legislator in the upper house of parliament, said in an interview that “We cannot ride to the rescue just to compensate for mistakes that we didn’t commit,” without specifying what Russia is seeking. “We’re fulfilling all our contracts, all our obligations. Everything on top of that should be a subject for additional voluntary and mutually beneficial agreements.”
As if to emphasize the point, the pipeline's operator announced Monday that its first line is filled of so-called technical gas and ready to begin operating, albeit it won't be able to export it until the regulatory clearance is given. That statement came only hours after European gas prices skyrocketed after it was revealed that Gazprom had once again competed for only a tiny amount of capacity to export the fuel to Europe via alternative routes.
As rising fuel prices have wreaked havoc on the European economy, pressure has mounted on Russia, Europe's largest supplier, to pump more. Extra Russian gas is viewed as the primary method to prevent a worsening supply crisis in the middle of winter.
However, with ties with Europe in a deep freeze as a result of years of sanctions and other problems, the Kremlin has no desire to do any favors. According to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, while shipments to Europe are up from last year's low levels, they lag below those observed in 2019. Daily flows fell in October, and Gazprom has been reluctant to replenish storage facilities it owns in Europe, adding to pricing pressure. Russia has blamed the problem on a too rapid transition to reliance on spot markets and alternative energy sources.