Oct 14 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Germany was unlikely to accept Russian gas from the one remaining undamaged line of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, two days after Berlin rejected his initial offer.
“A decision has not been made and it’s unlikely to be made, but that’s no longer our business, it’s the business of our partners,” he said.
The Nord Stream pipelines, intended to carry gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, suffered unexplained ruptures in three of their four lines, incidents that European countries have called sabotage.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Putin said on Wednesday that Russian gas could still be supplied to Europe through the one remaining intact line of the uncommissioned Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but a German government spokesman ruled this out.
Germany froze the approval process for the recently laid Nord Stream 2 as Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine, and it was never opened.
“They have to decide what is more important for them: fulfilling some kind of alliance commitment, as they see it, or safeguarding their national interests,” Putin said.
The impact of efforts to use less Russian energy, plus steep cuts in supplies from Russia, have been felt across the 27-nation European Union, with gas prices almost 90% higher than a year ago and fears of rationing and power cuts over the coming winter.
EU energy ministers on Wednesday agreed on the outlines of a package of proposals to tackle the crisis that will be put to the European Commission next week.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine
MOSCOW, Oct 4 (Reuters) – The operators of two Baltic Sea gas pipelines that linked Russia and Germany until they both sprang major leaks last week said they were unable to inspect the damaged sections because of restrictions imposed by Danish and Swedish authorities.
Europe is investigating what caused three pipelines in the Nord Stream network to burst in an act of suspected sabotage near Swedish and Danish waters that Moscow quickly sought to pin on the West, suggesting the United States stood to gain.
Nord Stream 2 AG, Switzerland-based operator of that gas pipeline, said on Tuesday it will examine the condition of the leaking pipelines once a police investigation of the “crime scene” is completed and a cordon is lifted.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Later on Tuesday, Nord Stream AG, operator of the older Nord Stream 1 pipeline, said they had been told by Danish authorities that receiving the necessary permits to carry out an inspection could take over 20 working days.
“According to the Swedish authorities, a ban on shipping, anchoring, diving, using of underwater vehicles, geophysical mapping, etc. has been introduced to conduct a state investigation around the damage sites in the Baltic Sea,” Nord Stream said in a press release.
Pressure in the pipeline had stabilised as of Monday, Nord Stream added.
Switzerland-based Nord Stream 2 said in emailed comments it was “cooperating with all relevant authorities”.
“Copenhagen police are handling the investigation of the crime scene at the Nord Stream 2 leak in the Danish EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” it said. “The Swedish coast guard has cordoned off the area around the leak in the Swedish EEZ.”
Kremlin-controlled Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has said flows could resume at the last remaining intact pipeline in the Nord Stream 2 network, a suggestion likely to be rebuffed given Europe blocked Nord Stream 2 days before Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Jan Harvey and Cynthia Osterman
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Suspicious leaks in two gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea caused a sudden drop in pressure on Monday, raising concerns about possible sabotage and prompting the authorities in Germany, Denmark and Sweden to investigate.
Sweden’s national seismic network said it detected two large undersea explosions on Monday near the locations of the leaks. Neither of the pipelines — Nord Stream 1 and 2— had been active, but they were filled with gas when there was a sharp drop in pressure, first registered on Monday.
Footage released by the Danish Defense Command showed a swirling mass of methane bubbling up onto the surface of the Baltic Sea. Officials in Denmark raised its security alerts at electricity and gas facilities around the country.
Speculation immediately fell on Russia, which denied responsibility. The leaks underscored the vulnerability of Europe’s energy infrastructure, even as the continent tries to wean itself off supplies from the Russia as punishment for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, blamed Russia for the leaks, saying they were an attempt to further destabilize Europe’s energy security. He spoke at the launch of a new undersea pipeline that connects Poland to Norway through Denmark.
“We do not know the details of what happened yet, but we can clearly see that it is an act of sabotage,” Mr. Morawiecki said. “An act that probably marks the next stage in the escalation of this situation in Ukraine.”
Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, said that sabotage could not be ruled out. “It is too early to conclude yet, but it is an extraordinary situation,” she said during a visit to Poland to inaugurate the pipeline from Norway.
“There is talk of three leaks, and therefore it is difficult to imagine that it could be accidental,” she said.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said on Twitter that the leaks were “a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards E.U.”
The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said of the leaks that “no possibility can be ruled out,” but the Russian state media sought to blame the United States and Ukraine. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported that Washington “is an active opponent of Russian gas supplies to Europe,” and said that Ukraine opposed Nord Stream 2 because it “was afraid of losing revenues from the transit of Russian gas.”
It was not immediately clear who would benefit from ruptures in the pipelines, which were not in operation. The leaks were found at different points on two branches of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and one branch of Nord Stream 2, Danish and Swedish officials said. They warned ships to avoid the affected areas.
The pipelines have been a focal point of the broader confrontation between Russia and Europe. After the European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia to penalize it for invading Ukraine in February, Russia began withholding the natural gas that for decades it had sent to Europe, threatening the continent’s energy supply as winter looms.
The governments in Denmark and Germany both said the leaks would not affect natural gas supplies in their countries. Gazprom had already halted nearly all deliveries of natural gas to Europe, through Nord Stream 1 as well as all but one of several overland pipelines, and European countries have turned to other suppliers, including Norway, to meet their energy needs.
But the incident made clear how vulnerable energy infrastructure could be. Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority warned on Monday that unidentified drones had been sighted recently near its offshore oil and gas facilities, raising concerns of possible explosions, helicopter collisions or of “deliberate attacks.” It called for “increased vigilance by all operators and vessel owners,” citing the heightened security concerns following recent threats by Russia linked to its war in Ukraine.
Russia’s Gazprom halted deliveries through Nord Stream 1 indefinitely earlier this month, as part of a continuing dispute with Germany over gas deliveries. The pipeline is made up of about 100,000 concrete-coated steel pipes designed to withstand the change in pressure the gas undergoes on the 760-mile journey from Russia to Germany. They lie on the floor of the Baltic Sea.
Nord Stream 2 was never put into operation after Germany canceled its certification on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Senators and members of Congress had lobbied for years to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2. After Germany halted certification, President Biden imposed sanctions on the Russian-owned operator of the pipeline.
Monika Pronczuk, Oleg Matsnev and Torben Brooks contributed reporting.
Since fighting broke out in Ukraine nearly seven months ago, Russia and Europe have been waging an economic war over energy, one that could have dire consequences for millions of households and businesses across the continent.
Last year, nearly 40 percent of the natural gas used to heat homes and power businesses throughout the European Union came from Russia, one of the continent’s largest and most important trading partners for energy.
Now barely half that amount enters Europe, government statistics show, stoking fears of shortages this winter.
As part of a wide-ranging effort to cripple Russia’s economy, which is largely propelled by the sale of fossil fuels, the European Union has imposed huge sanctions and has vowed to eventually stop buying Russian gas.
But with Europe still dependent on Russia in the meantime, Russia has retaliated by severely restricting the flow of energy to Europe, forcing governments to try to find alternatives.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “is using energy as a weapon by cutting supply and manipulating our energy markets,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, wrote on Twitter.
This battle has proved costly for both sides.
Alternative buyers of Russia’s oil and gas, including China and India, are taking advantage of the situation and pushing for steep discounts. That is limiting the revenue that Moscow needs to power its economy, as well as to build pipelines and ports to supply energy to Asia more regularly.
European governments are paying high prices to stock up on the fuel, asking citizens and companies to save energy and unveiling sweeping emergency packages to cap energy bills and bail out struggling businesses.
Even countries that don’t import Russian gas are suffering, because electricity prices are closely linked to gas. The benchmark wholesale price of natural gas in Europe, which has been incredibly volatile since the war in Ukraine began, is roughly four times what it was a year ago.
The average European household is facing a monthly energy bill of 500 euros ($494) next year, triple the amount in 2021, according to estimates by analysts at Goldman Sachs. Applied to all energy users, that implies a €2 trillion increase in spending on heat and electricity.
The squeeze is particularly acute in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which relies on Russia as its biggest supplier of gas. The bulk of it flows through Nord Stream 1, a 760-mile passageway that connects the two countries via the Baltic Sea.
Since the war, the Russian-controlled operator of the pipeline, Gazprom, has twice reduced the amount of gas it sends to Germany and twice shut the pipeline down for maintenance. After the most recent shutdown last week, Gazprom postponed a planned restart, citing faulty equipment, and provided no timeline for reopening, with officials in the Kremlin blaming sanctions for delaying repairs.
Critics suggested that last week’s move was a cynical response by Russia after finance ministers for the Group of 7 countries said they had agreed to impose a price cap mechanism on Russian oil in a bid to choke off some of the revenue Moscow still generates from Europe.
The indefinite shutdown nonetheless raised fears that it could become permanent. A complete cutoff from Russian gas would push Europeans’ energy bills even higher and hit the region’s economy even harder, with experts projecting a potentially deep recession in the most exposed countries. A shutdown would subtract nearly 3 percent from Germany’s economy next year, economists at the International Monetary Fund have estimated.
“In our view, the market continues to underestimate the depth, the breadth and the structural repercussions of the crisis,” the Goldman Sachs analysts wrote. “We believe these will be even deeper than the 1970s oil crisis.”
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 1’ gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Tom Westbrook
As far as first days go, Monday is shaping as a doozy for Britain’s new Prime Minster. read more
That’s widely expected to be Liz Truss, who’d begin as leader with gas prices poised to fly after Russia cancelled the weekend’s resumption of gas flow down the Nord Stream pipe.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Gazprom blamed an oil leak at a compressor station near where the pipeline plunges into the Baltic Sea, though Germany’s network regulator and turbine supplier Siemens said a leak was no technical reason for cutting flows. read more
The result is worst-case scenarios for Europe’s growth edging closer to reality.
The pound is within striking distance of its lowest levels since 1985. The euro is testing a fall below 99 cents for the fist time since the early 2000s, with outsized moves possible since a U.S. holiday will thin liquidity.
The latest storage figures show German facilities have already hit October’s 85% capacity target. But that achievement has required cuts to consumption so deep that they are unsustainable without damage to growth.
And the autumn has barely begun, so a lean season awaits.
Focus on Monday, apart from the appointment of Britain’s next leader, is likely to be on the fallout from the gas cut, which is already drawing emergency subsidies and liquidity guarantees in Germany and Baltic states. read more
Later in the week, the European Central Bank meets with markets pricing about a 75% chance of a 75 basis point rate hike.
Key developments that could influence markets on Monday:
Economics: Final Europe and UK PMIs, euro zone retail sales
Speakers: Bank of England’s Catherine Mann
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Tom Westbrook
Editing by Vidya Ranganathan & Shri Navaratnam
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Gazprom said on Friday that it would postpone restarting the flow of natural gas through a closely watched pipeline that connects Russia and Germany, an unexpected delay that appeared to be part of a larger struggle between Moscow and the West over energy and the war in Ukraine.
The Russian-owned energy giant had been expected to resume the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Saturday after three days of maintenance. But hours before the pipeline was set to reopen, Gazprom said that problems had been found during inspections, and that the pipeline would be closed until they were eliminated. It did not give a timeline for restarting.
The announcement had the hallmarks of a tit-for-tat move. Earlier on Friday, finance ministers for the Group of 7 countries said that they had agreed to impose a price cap mechanism on Russian oil in a bid to choke off some of the energy revenue Moscow is still collecting from Europe.
Eric Mamer, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that the “fallacious pretenses” for the latest delay were “proof of Russia’s cynicism.”
Russia has, during Mr. Putin’s long tenure, used energy for geopolitical ends, often with the goal of gaining leverage over European policies toward Ukraine. Mr. Putin has taken a keen interest in the oil and natural gas industries, often negotiating deals personally with energy giants in ways that barely hide the political subtext. The Nord Stream pipelines, which are designed to bypass Ukraine by sending gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, have been central to the Kremlin’s political use of energy.
In its statement Friday, Gazprom said it found oil leaks around a turbine used to pressurize the pipeline, forcing it to call off the restart. The German company Siemens Energy, the maker of the turbine, cast doubt on that account. “As the manufacturer of the turbines, we can only state that such a finding is not a technical reason for stopping operation,” the company said late Friday. Siemens also said there were additional turbines available that could be used to keep the pipeline operating.
OPEC Plus group of oil producing countries, headed by Saudi Arabia and Russia, have been hinting that they might pivot away from their gradual post-pandemic production increases and cut output to bolster falling prices. The group is expected to meet on Monday to set oil production levels.
“Putin will endeavor to demonstrate that he has not played his last card and that there are many open windows in his energy war with the West,” Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients on Friday.
The latest action by Gazprom will raise fears of a permanent shutdown of the pipeline, which had been the key conduit for gas to Germany, a country heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. Like other European Union nations, Germany has been rushing to fill storage facilities before winter as insurance against Russian cutoffs.
since late July. Well after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the pipeline was typically transporting around five times that level.
Britain’s energy regulator said that fuel bills for 24 million households would rise by 80 percent beginning in October, putting pressure on the next prime minister, expected to be Liz Truss, to turn immediate attention to coming up with a massive aid package to head off a catastrophic winter.
Britain’s government is not the only one working to mitigate the energy crisis in Europe. Facing dire circumstances, lawmakers and regulators across the continent are increasingly intervening in the energy markets to protect consumers.
Read More About Oil and Gas Prices
At the same time, the European natural gas market has changed substantially over the last year as Russia crimped supplies and Europe turned to other sources. Flows from Russia to Europe have declined sharply.
imports of liquefied natural gas shipped by sea from the United States and elsewhere, and increased pipeline flows from producers including Norway and Azerbaijan. The problem is that the shifts have forced gas prices higher, as Europe vies with Asia for limited supplies of liquefied gas.
Until Friday’s announcement there was increasing optimism about the prospect for navigating the winter with less Russian gas, leading to the fall in natural gas prices in recent days.Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm, has projected that Russian pipeline gas imports will steadily decline from supplying more than a third of European demand in recent years to around 9 percent in 2023.
Even the importance of Nord Stream has diminished. Analysts say that Gazprom has so constrained Nord Stream volumes this summer that the pipeline’s performance is no longer crucial to the overall fundamentals of the market. But news about the conduit still has a psychological impact, and some analysts expect gas prices to jump when markets open on Monday.
“A complete shutdown will obviously have implications on market sentiment given how tight the market is,” said Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president for global gas at Wood Mackenzie. Such an event, he added, would “increase the risk of further cuts via other pipelines bringing Russian gas to the E.U. via Ukraine and Turkey.”
Russia’s decision to restart the flow of natural gas through a vital pipeline on Thursday brought a moment of relief to Germany, which uses the fuel to power its most important industries and heat half its homes. But it is unlikely to be much more than that.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has made clear that he intends to use his country’s energy exports as a cudgel, and even a weapon, to punish and divide European leaders — loosening or tightening the taps as it suits him and his war aims in Ukraine.
He is counting on that uncertainty to impose heavy economic and political costs on European leaders. Those elected officials are under growing pressure to bring down energy prices and avoid gas rationing that might force factories and government buildings to close and require people to lower thermostats in winter. Leaders in some nations, like Spain and Greece, are already chafing at a European Union plan to have every member country cut its gas use, arguing that they are already much less reliant on Russia than Germany.
Many questions remain about the stability of the gas supplies that began flowing again on the pipeline, the Nord Stream 1, which directly connects Russia and Germany. But, analysts said, it is clear that Europe, and Germany in particular, could remain on edge for months about whether there will be enough energy.
In the weeks leading up to the 10-day shutdown for planned maintenance that just ended, Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy monopoly, had already reduced flows through the pipeline to 40 percent of its capacity. Analysts have warned that such levels will not be enough to prevent an energy crisis next winter.
“The resumed gas supplies from Russia via Nord Stream 1 are no reason to give the all clear,” said Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries. “It remains to be seen whether gas will actually flow in the long term and in the amount contractually agreed.”
He added, “Germany and Europe must not become the plaything of blackmailing Russian politics.”
On Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, who previously held senior positions in the German government, introduced a proposal for European Union members to reduce their gas consumption 15 percent to prepare for uncertain and possibly unsteady supply before the winter.
Before Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February, Germany got 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Few E.U. countries come close to that level of dependence — a fact that is starting to fracture European unity on Russia and energy policy.
Many Europeans already think Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, is a wealthy neighbor that is not always eager to help weaker countries. That characteristic was most recently highlighted by the country’s attitude toward helping Greece, Spain and other countries that use the euro when they were struggling financially about a decade ago.
Now, some of those very same countries are signaling that they are unwilling to make their businesses and people endure more suffering when energy prices are soaring to help bail Germany out of its dependence on Russia.
The Spanish energy minister, Teresa Ribera, said on Thursday that her country would encourage but not require its citizens to cut gas use. “Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view,” she told El País newspaper, echoing the description some German ministers used during the eurozone crisis.
The Greek government has also pushed back against the European Union’s call for a 15 percent cut in gas use. Although Greece relies on Russia to meet 40 percent of its gas needs, its supplies have not been cut.
Stoking such divisions is at the heart of Mr. Putin’s strategy of cutting off gas deliveries through pipelines that cross Ukraine and Poland while limiting the volume of natural gas flowing under the Baltic Sea through the 760-mile Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
“The entire European energy system is going through a crisis, and even with today’s restart of Nord Stream 1, the region is in a tight position,” Rystad Energy, a research firm, wrote in a market note on Thursday.
Mr. Putin appears to be drawing out the uncertainty about whether and for how long the gas will keep flowing to Germany to try to maximize his leverage as long as he can.
Hours before the flow of gas resumed on Thursday, Gazprom said in a statement that it still had not received documents from Siemens for a turbine that was sent to Canada for repairs. The papers are necessary for the part to be returned, the company said, adding that the engine, and others like it, had “a direct influence on the operational safety of the Nord Stream pipeline.”
Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor, rejected a statement from Gazprom earlier in the day that the resumption of gas through the pipeline was proof that the Russian company was a “guarantor” of energy security in Europe.
“The opposite is the case,” Mr. Habeck said. “It is proving to be a factor of uncertainty.”
The German government has already activated the second of three steps of its gas emergency plan. Included was the swapping of gas-fired power plants with ones that burn coal, which releases many more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than burning gas. The third and final step would allow the government to ration supplies.
On Thursday, Mr. Habeck announced additional measures aimed at increasing the country’s gas reserves, like conservation incentives that include more ambitious targets for the storage facilities and reactivating power plants that burn lignite — the dirtiest fossil fuel.
He said the government was also weighing strict limits on how people could use gas. For example, the government might forbid people to heat private swimming pools with gas. When pressed on how such measures would be enforced, Mr. Habeck drew a parallel to bans on holding private gatherings during the initial lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic, which were rarely enforced — unless neighbors alerted the authorities.
“I do not think that the police will visit every homeowner. That is not our intention and not the country I want to live in,” Mr. Habeck said. “But if it was pointed out that someone is not going along with it, then we would certainly look into that.”
Whether Germans, who were among the Europeans most willing to follow public health rules in 2020 when the pandemic started only to rebel months later, will be willing to sacrifice their comfort in solidarity with Ukraine has yet to be fully put to the test.
The German government is facing what Janis Kluge, an analyst on Russia with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, called “a very delicate balance” in how it communicates with the public.
“On the one hand, they have to mobilize everybody to save energy, to save gas and tell everybody that there could be an energy emergency in the winter, while at the same time avoiding that this turns into criticism about the sanctions policy and support for Ukraine,” he said.
“This is exactly what Putin wants to achieve,” Mr. Kluge added. “That when we make the next decision about arms deliveries to Ukraine, that somewhere in the back of our heads, there is this thought, well, what is this going to do to our gas deliveries?”
Berlin has been scrambling to buy more gas from the Netherlands, Norway and the United States. The government has set aside 2.94 billion euros, about $3 billion, to lease four floating terminals in the hopes that they will be operating by midwinter to help ward off a crisis that threatens a recession.
For years, Germany ignored warnings from its neighbors and allies that it was making itself vulnerable by becoming increasingly dependent on Russia for its energy needs.
“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” President Donald J. Trump said at the United Nations in 2018.
In response, the German delegation, which included the country’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, laughed.
BERLIN — When the main natural gas artery between Russia and Germany, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, was taken off-line last week for 10 days of scheduled maintenance, European leaders began bracing for the possibility that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would not switch it back on as retaliation for opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
But Mr. Putin has suggested that the gas will resume flowing to Europe after the work on the pipeline — controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom — finishes on Thursday, though he warned that supplies might be further curtailed.
The European Commission called on the bloc’s 27 members to immediately begin taking steps to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent. “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the commission, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.
But analysts have pointed out that if Russia ceased gas flows to Europe, the country would lose an element of leverage in the economic battle it has waged against the continent since the invasion of Ukraine, allowing Mr. Putin to exert control over supplies and prices.
Speaking to reporters late Tuesday in Tehran after meeting with the leaders of Iran and Turkey, Mr. Putin warned that Gazprom would send only “half of the volume intended” through the Nord Stream pipeline. Before it was shut down on July 11 for annual maintenance, flows had already been reduced to 40 percent of capacity.
Maintaining such a reduced flow of natural gas could be advantageous to the Russian leader, analysts said, allowing him to keep Europeans in a protracted state of uncertainty and near panic. Russia has already ceased gas deliveries through other major pipelines to Europe that cross Poland and Ukraine.
“To the extent that Putin maintains some gas flows on Nord Stream 1, he enjoys both income and leverage,” said David L. Goldwyn, a former senior State Department energy diplomat who served in the first term of the Obama administration. “Once he cuts off supply, he loses both and there is no turning back.”
European gas prices have soared to three or four times those of a year ago, causing a jump in inflation and raising concerns over social unrest once temperatures begin to drop.
The European Union imported 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia last year. That fell to only 28 percent in the first three months of this year. At the same time, overall gas imports in the bloc increased, driven largely by a 72 percent jump in purchases of liquefied natural gas.
Gazprom has blamed reduced flows through Nord Stream on a turbine that was sent to Montreal for repairs and could not be returned because of sanctions against Russia. German officials disputed Gazprom’s claim that the turbine could have caused such a cut in flows.
Since then, the German government has secured the return of the equipment, which was made and repaired by Siemens Energy at a plant in Canada. But Mr. Putin said that another one of the turbines in the six compressors near Russia’s Baltic Sea coast was now in need of refurbishing and indicated there were also problems with several others.
“If one more comes, then it’s good, two will work. And if it does not come, there will be one, it will be only 30 million cubic meters per day,” he told reporters. That’s less than 20 percent of the pipeline’s capacity of 160 million cubic meters of gas a day, or 5,600 million cubic feet.
Records on a Nord Stream website indicated that a tiny amount of gas flowed through the pipeline on Tuesday afternoon, in an apparent test. A site run by the Gascade network provider showed that capacity had been booked through Nord Stream for Thursday. These aren’t guarantees that the gas will flow, but it could indicate Russia’s continued interest in piping gas to Europe.
Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, said keeping a low flow through Nord Stream could strengthen Russia’s position and even weaken Europe’s resolve if the war dragged on.
“Maintaining Europe’s energy dependency on Russia and stoking uncertainty about natural gas supplies, which can only help in boosting prices,” he said, are among the reasons Mr. Putin would want to keep Nord Stream online. There is the added attraction, Mr. Prasad said, of being able “to some extent control Europe’s economic destiny.”
But a return of flows from Russia this week is no guarantee that they will continue in the future or be sufficient for Germany and its European partners to meet their goals to fill gas storage tanks to 80 percent capacity by the beginning of November. In Germany, where half the homes are heated by natural gas and the fuel is necessary for the chemical, steel and paper industries, storage levels reached 65 percent by Wednesday — just above the European average.
This week, Ms. von der Leyen traveled to Azerbaijan to secure a deal to double the imports of Azeri natural gas to at least 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) a year by 2027 as part of efforts across Europe to secure gas from sources beyond Russia.
Germany has turned to the Netherlands and Norway for more gas, as well as buying more liquefied natural gas from the United States and Qatar. But none of Europe’s 26 L.N.G. terminals, which are needed to convert the gas from its deep-chilled state back into a gas, are in Germany.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor, has secured 2.94 billion euros to rent four floating L.N.G. terminals. The first are scheduled to be in operation by the end of the year.
But if Europe faces an unusually cold winter, that might not be soon enough to ensure that Germany keeps its homes heated and factories running. Germany has already activated two steps of a three-stage “gas emergency” plan, bringing back coal-fired power plants to replace those run by gas and running through scenarios of what would happen if the gas is cut off entirely.
To some observers, the panic of recent weeks is exactly what Mr. Putin wants.
“Will he give us gas? Will he cut the flow? Europe is hanging on Putin’s lips again,” Janis Kluge, an analyst on Russia with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, wrote on Twitter. “However the Nord Stream 1 saga continues, he is definitely loving every part of it.”
Melissa Eddy reported from Berlin, and Patricia Cohen from London. Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels, and Anton Troianovski from Berlin.
Recent comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin amount to little more than posturing after a disastrous campaign in Ukraine, but any comment from a world leader with a nuclear arsenal should be taken seriously, military experts told Fox News Digital.
“I think when Putin says stuff like this, all he does is really kind of reinforce the point that [Russia’s] not really responding to a legitimate external threat,” James Carafano, Vice President of The Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation, said.
Finland and Sweden reversed historically neutral positions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, explaining that the “security landscape” in Europe had changed. Turkey said it would not support either country’s bid to join the alliance, which would effectively block their entry since any applicant requires full support from native members.
But Turkey on Tuesday said it would now support the bids after reaching an “agreement” that “paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed.
Putin on Wednesday said that Sweden and Finland could “go ahead” and join NATO, but warned that Russia would “respond in kind” if either country hosted the alliance’s military forces or infrastructure.
PUTIN PUSHES TOWARD RUSSIA, BELARUS UNIFYING AFTER NATO EXPANSION
“I’m not sure I would read anything strategic into it because on its face: It’s a completely ridiculous statement,” Carafano said. “I don’t think you can really read anything strategic into it.”
Carafano explained that establishing any such infrastructure would take “months or even years” to complete, and the two countries already cooperate with NATO allies even if they aren’t currently members.
“Finland and Sweden already cooperate and integrate its stuff with the U.S. military, so the notion that any NATO member would allow an outsider like Russia to dictate what kind of deployment infrastructure could be in a NATO territory is just laughable on its face,” Carafano said.
ERNST TAKES ON PUTIN, GLOBAL FOOD SHORTAGE IN PUSH TO DE-MINE THE BLACK SEA
Carafano suggested that Putin could have intended the comments sarcastically, but that “only Putin knows what Putin is going to do.”
“The guy’s pretty much a dictator, and he has an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a military, so I would never say, ‘Oh, geez, he’ll never do that,’” Carafano added. “But if you look at this consistent pattern of Russian behavior, where they have been threatening all kinds of things – everything from implying nuclear exchanges to military activity – in the end, all the Russians have done is annoy.”
James Anderson, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under President Trump, argued that Putin needs to save face after causing two neutral countries to join the NATO alliance thanks to his invasion of Ukraine.
RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKE NEAR ODESA KILLS 18 UKRAINIANS, INCLUDING 2 CHILDREN, GOVERNMENT SAYS
“[The Russian people] see – and he no doubt fears they see – his aggressive actions in Ukraine have driven historically neutral countries to seek membership [in NATO],” Anderson said. “In a strategic sense, Putin’s invasion has made Russia as a whole less secure – not only because of the fact that the invasion did not go well, but now NATO is poised to grow.”
Anderson called Putin’s recent comments efforts to “reframe” the course of the war and its outcomes, calling Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO “strategically significant.”
“All one has to do is look at the map to see that [Sweden and Finland] are in a geographically important position on the northern flank: It will become easier for NATO to operate in the Baltic Sea,” Anderson explained. “It will also complicate to an extent Moscow’s Arctic strategy.”
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“Within NATO, there’s an East-West divide: You have countries that are closer to the border, including Poland, the Baltics … who more directly feel the threat of the Russian bear,” he added. “I think both Helsinki and Stockholm are doing this given what Russia has done in Ukraine and what they fear Putin may do in the future. They want that NATO Article Five guarantee – and who can blame them?”
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.
MADRID — NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance on Wednesday after Turkey lifted its veto on their membership, NATO’s secretary-general said Tuesday evening, clearing the way for what would be one of the most significant expansions of the alliance in decades.
The historic deal, following Turkey’s agreement to a memorandum with the two Nordic countries, underscored how the war in Ukraine has backfired for President Vladimir V. Putin, subverting Russian efforts to weaken NATO and pushing Sweden and Finland, which were neutral and nonaligned for decades, into the alliance’s arms.
After weeks of talks, capped by an hourslong meeting in Madrid, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey agreed to lift his block on Sweden and Finland’s membership in return for a set of actions and promises that they will act against terrorism and terrorist organizations.
“As NATO allies, Finland and Sweden commit to fully support Turkey against threats to its national security,” NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, providing some details of the agreement. “This includes further amending their domestic legislation, cracking down on P.K.K. activities and entering into an agreement with Turkey on extradition,” he added, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which seeks an independent Kurdish state on territory partly within Turkey’s borders.
Mr. Erdogan had been blocking the Nordic countries’ NATO bids amid concerns over Sweden’s longtime support for the P.K.K. which has attacked nonmilitary targets and killed civilians in Turkey, is outlawed in that country and is designated by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.
But the memorandum does not specify the extradition of any of the 45 people or so Mr. Erdogan wanted sent to Turkey to face trial on terrorism charges. Sweden has already passed tougher legislation against terrorism that goes into effect July 1.
Both Finland and Sweden had been militarily nonaligned for many years, but decided to apply to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. With Russia attacking a neighbor, both countries felt vulnerable, though Sweden, with a long tradition of neutrality, was more hesitant.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia warned both countries against joining NATO, but his threats proved counterproductive.
The two countries bring geostrategic benefits to the alliance. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and has a well-equipped modern army; Sweden can control the entrance to the Baltic Sea, which will help a great deal in NATO planning to defend the more vulnerable countries in Eastern Europe.
The final push to resolve the dispute started early Tuesday morning, when President Biden called Mr. Erdogan to urge him to “seize the moment” on the eve of the summit, to allow discussions on other topics to proceed, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the discussion.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said the president conveyed the substance of his conversation with Mr. Erdogan to the leaders of Finland and Sweden. And after several hours of negotiations later that night, the two Nordic leaders consulted with Mr. Biden again before announcing the agreement with Turkey.
The American official said that the deal between Turkey and the two Nordic countries involved a series of compromises on both sides, including the statement by Turkey welcoming Finland and Sweden to apply and issues involving an arms embargo imposed on Turkey and Turkey’s belief that Finland and Sweden had offered safe havens to groups they considered terrorists.
American officials had for days played down Mr. Biden’s role in the negotiations, saying he would not be a broker between the other countries and insisted that it was up to Turkey, Finland and Sweden to resolve their differences.
After the agreement was announced Tuesday night, the senior administration official conceded that it was considered more diplomatic to publicly minimize Mr. Biden’s involvement. Doing so prevented Turkey from seeking concessions from the United States for agreeing to lift its veto, which might have complicated the discussions, the official said.
The next steps for Finland and Sweden are clear: NATO will vote on Wednesday to accept their applications. There will also be a quick study of their defense capacities and needs. But the talks are expected to be routine, since both countries are NATO partners and have exercised together with NATO allies.
The more difficult last step requires the legislatures of all 30 current members to vote to amend the NATO founding treaty to accept the new members. That has in the past taken up to a year, but is expected to be much quicker for the Nordic countries.
The U.S. Senate is already pressing ahead with hearings on the application and Mr. Biden has been a firm proponent of the new members.
Johanna Lemola contributed reporting from Helsinki, Finland.