April 13, 2014
Europe Awaits the Great Gas Cutoff
Escalating Ukraine Crisis Is Unlikely to Let Russian Gas Flow Smoothly to Europe
The new assaults this weekend on Ukrainian police and government centers by Russian-backed gunmen underscores that the crisis has grown so acute that any number of events could trigger a cut-off in Russian gas pumped through Ukraine. Ukraine's interim government says it fears an overt invasion by a Russian force poised near Ukraine's border. And a dispute is growing between the two countries over Russia’s pricing and Ukraine’s unpaid bills for gas.
While the Russia-Ukraine conflict directly threatens a disruption of supplies piped through Ukraine, it poses a secondary risk to Russian gas supplies that reach Europe through other pipelines. These include the Nord Stream system, which feeds Germany and other countries via the Baltic Sea; the Yamal-1 pipeline via Belarus to Poland; and Blue Stream, a pipeline that stretches under the Black Sea to Turkey. "Russia has shown a readiness to use gas cutoffs as a weapon and could disrupt these supplies to retaliate for European support of Ukraine in the current crisis," Roberts notes.
"The underlying problem is that, right now, Moscow is involved in too many disputes with Kyiv to make it possible to envisage Russian gas flowing smoothly across Ukraine," he writes.