The months-long war in Ukraine has had repercussions well beyond the battlefield, as the wider continent of Europe has had to contend with energy and economic shocks stemming from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
This has included nearby nations having to rethink their energy supply arrangements, with the European Union (EU) having relied on Russia for 40 per cent of its natural gas, despite concerns that the setup carried risks.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the West to enact a series of sanctions which led to pushback from Moscow, including demands that “unfriendly” countries pay for their gas in rubles.
Russia has also curtailed its shipments of natural gas to Europe — spurring those nations to seek a new course.
The key Nord Stream pipelines that carry natural gas through the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany have been the focus of much debate and concern during the war in Ukraine.
First, the Nord Stream 1 saw service interruptions and reductions to its output and was later shut off in August, with Russia citing technical problems as the reason for the halt in operations. German officials rejected that explanation, saying it was likely done in retaliation for sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since then, both Nord Stream 1 and the not-yet-operational Nord Stream 2, have seen damage from apparent sabotage, with seismologists saying explosions rattled the Baltic Sea before unusual leaks were discovered earlier in September on two pipelines running from Russia to Germany.
Europe has accused Russia of weaponizing energy supplies, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied his country is responsible for the continent’s energy crisis, instead blaming what he called “the green agenda” and suggesting that lifting sanctions would solve Europe’s energy problems.
“The bottom line is … if it’s so hard for you, just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2,” Putin said while speaking to reporters after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan in mid-September. “Just push the button and everything will get going.”
Because of this uncertainty, the price of natural gas has soared, now sitting roughly three times what it was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The European energy crisis has prompted nations to begin stockpiling gas well before winter. As of late September, The Associated Press reported that European countries have filled storage facilities to 87 per cent of their capacity.
Despite efforts to be prepared, there are concerns about how people, businesses and economies will fare in the months ahead.
The EU has also made plans to reduce gas consumption, as a buttress against drops in supply, with governments committing to lower gas use by 15 per cent. This means the Eiffel Tower will plunge into darkness over an hour earlier than normal, while shops and buildings shut off lights at night and lower thermostats.
Members are also looking toward other suppliers such as Norway, with Germany now buying more natural gas from the nordic country.
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