Russia cuts flow of gas to Germany once again

Mikhail Metzel

Here we go again. Russia cut the supply of natural gas to Germany by about 60% last month claiming it had to do maintenance on the gas compressors that keep the Nord Stream I pipeline filled. Now Russia has announced the supply of gas will be cut even further.

Russia’s state-owned gas monopoly, Gazprom, said on Monday that it would further reduce the amount of natural gas it sends to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, less than a week after it resumed limited flows after an annual maintenance shutdown.

Flows had already been cut back to 40 percent of capacity, but Gazprom said that it would crimp them to 20 percent starting Wednesday, citing problems with one of the powerful turbines that are manufactured by the German company Siemens Energy. The turbines build pressure within the pipeline to ship the gas long distances.

The first time Gazprom did this, Germany’s economic minister said the decision was political not technical. Today he’s once again not buying Russia’s excuses.

“Based on our information there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries,” the German economy ministry said in a statement that followed Gazprom’s announcement.

Observers said the move smacked of President Vladimir V. Putin’s intention to use Russia’s energy exports as a cudgel to punish and divide European leaders by loosening or tightening the taps as it suits him and his war aims in Ukraine…

“Gazprom’s announcement should not surprise,” said Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Bruegel, a think tank based in Brussels. “Russia is playing a strategic game here. Fluctuating already low flows is better than a full cutoff as it manipulates the market and optimizes geopolitical impact.”

Germany’s use of gas for heating peaks in the winter months so they’ve been trying to fill up their underground storage tanks to make sure they don’t run short a few months from now. Ukrainian president Zelensky called Russia’s behavior a “gas war” on Europe.

“Even despite the concession regarding the Nord Stream turbine, Russia is not going to resume gas supplies to European countries, as it is contractually obligated to do. All this is done by Russia deliberately to make it as difficult as possible for Europeans to prepare for winter,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. “This is an overt gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe — this is exactly how it should be perceived.”

That is what is happening here. The pipeline doesn’t need this much maintenance. This is just a way for Putin to lash out at Europe which is currently supplying Ukraine with weapons that are killing his soldiers. By lying about the cause he can maintain control and always turn the supply back on (at a much higher price) if he needs cash.

Here’s President Zelensky’s full statement today. The part about the “gas war” on Europe starts about 1:34 in to this clip. “The gas blackmail of Europe, which only gets worse every month, is needed by a terrorist state to make life worse for every European,” he said.