At the Russian Energy Week forum on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin criticized the European Union’s decision to forgo Russian energy supplies, particularly gas. He stated that there is no sensible explanation for the EU’s current policy and suggested that the “modern political system in [the West] obviously sometimes brings not the smartest people to the top.”
Putin highlighted the lack of common sense in some European capitals regarding the issue of Russian gas exports to Europe. He specifically mentioned Germany’s behavior and found it surprising that European nations did not demand the reopening of a Russian gas pipeline through Ukraine after it was shut down. This shutdown occurred when Ukraine claimed that Russian forces controlling a compressor station were interfering with its technical processes.
Ukraine’s actions can be traced back to their announcement in July that they might cut Russian gas supplies to Europe altogether, as they do not intend to renew their transit deal with Moscow. Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko even predicted that Europe would not need Russian gas at all by the winter of 2024. However, the 2019 transit agreement between Russia and Ukraine allows for the export of 40 billion cubic meters of gas per year via Ukraine until the end of 2024. A third of this volume would have reached Europe through the now cut-off pipeline.
Putin criticized Europe’s lack of demand for the reopening of the Ukrainian pipeline, as well as their failure to use common sense in dealing with energy supply issues. He mentioned Poland’s termination of a supply contract with Russia before its expiry date and their rejection of Russia’s demand for ruble payments. Instead, Poland began using its leg of the Yamal-Europe Pipeline to pump stored gas from Germany.
The Russian president stressed that Europe could have demanded the opening of the pipeline and used it to support their economy. He also mentioned Germany’s role as the largest donor to the EU budget and Poland’s status as the largest recipient of EU funds. Putin suggested that Germany might have encouraged Poland not to disrupt the relationship and “not to bite the hand that feeds you.”
Furthermore, Putin pointed out that Germany could have approved the use of the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which remained operable after a series of underwater explosions destroyed the other three strings of Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2. He highlighted that Nord Stream 2 could have delivered 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year directly to Germany. Instead, Germany chooses to buy gas with a 30% premium and not utilize Russia’s energy resource.
In conclusion, President Putin expressed his confusion and disappointment with the EU’s current energy policies, particularly their avoidance of Russian gas supplies. He emphasized that there is no sensible explanation for Europe’s actions and suggested that the decision-makers in Western politics may not always be the most intelligent individuals.