Russia cuts off gas to Finland that they were barely using anyway

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

From the moment Finland announced the decision to apply for NATO membership, the world seemed to be holding its breath while waiting to see what Russia would do in response. Would Putin dispatch troops toward the border? Would he fire some missiles into Helsinki? Last night we learned the answer. Russia has shut down the flow of natural gas from Russian energy giant Gazprom into the country through a pipeline established in the 70s. The media is describing this decision as “symbolic” for the most part and the initial response from Finland seems to support that conclusion. As we’ll see in a moment, Finland isn’t particularly worried about this development and had been preparing for such a move for most of the year. (Associated Press)

Russia halted gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday, a highly symbolic move that came just days after the Nordic country announced it wanted to join NATO and marked a likely end to Finland’s nearly 50 years of importing natural gas from Russia.

The measure taken by the Russian energy giant Gazprom was in line with an earlier announcement following Helsinki’s refusal to pay for the gas in rubles as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded European countries do since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The Finnish state-owned gas company Gasum said that “natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum’s supply contract have been cut off” by Russia on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT).

Interestingly, the Finnish Speaker of Parliament seemed almost sympathetic to Russia, declaring that the “symbolic” move was not really in retaliation for his country’s bid to join NATO. Instead, he described it as being “the same thing it has done earlier with some other countries to maintain its own credibility.”

It’s not as if the two countries hadn’t already been severing their energy ties since the beginning of the invasion. The Russians cut off their electric grid from Finland earlier this month and the Fins stopped shipments of Russian crude oil in April, replacing it with oil shipments from other nations. And the natural gas imports were already all but dead anyway after Finland refused to pay for the gas in rubles to prop up the Russian economy.

As mentioned above, Finland will barely notice the loss of those natural gas supplies. They already have a natural gas pipeline running between Finland and Estonia. They will divert some of that flow for their own needs, which are modest. Natural gas only accounts for 5% of the energy used in Finland and a very small number of buildings use it for heating. But this does appear to be the end of decades of energy cooperation between Finland and Russia, perhaps permanently. The realignment of the world order continues in ways that Vladimir Putin likely didn’t anticipate, and not in Russia’s favor.

Russia is doing other “symbolic” things this month in an effort to strike a blow at its perceived enemies. Just this week, they issued sanctions against a number of U.S. lawmakers and banned them from traveling to Russia. The list included… (wait for it) John McCain and Harry Reid.

I suppose banning dead people from traveling to Russia makes sense inside the Kremlin about now. They’ve got enough on their hands as it is without a zombie invasion.