Russian President Vladimir Putin looks intent on invading Ukraine imminently. Margarita Balmaceda, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relatio
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks intent on invading Ukraine imminently. Margarita Balmaceda, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seaton Hall University, explained to Express.co.uk how Russia is using gas as a weapon to influence Europe’s response towards its aggression against Ukraine.
President Putin has amassed over 100,000 troops on Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Despite fierce warnings from the West that further aggression will not be tolerated no one seems keen to make any concrete threats against Russia.
A key reason for this lack of action could be because many European countries are heavily reliant on Russian natural gas exports.
Any threat to this supply could seriously weaken their economies.
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For example, Germany is one of the heaviest consumers of Russian gas as around 40 percent of its supply comes from Russia.
If this supply was stopped, then German industry would be crippled overnight.
Professor Balmaceda believes Putin is “already using natural gas as a way to try to influence both Ukrainian policy and European Union policy.”
In fact, she blames Russia for the “great energy crunch” which has seen gas prices rocket in Europe from October 2021.
She told Express.co.uk: “If you look back at October, you guys in Europe were starting to experience what people call the great energy crunch.
“Less and less natural gas supplies, in particular from Russia, were made available.”
“It was very clear at the time that the Kremlin leadership wanted to put pressure on European actors into speeding up the certification of Nord Stream 2.”
Nord Stream 2 she explained is crucial in Russia’s policy against Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 is a pipeline that runs from Russia directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea.
It bypasses the need for the pipelines which deliver gas to Europe to cross transit countries such as Ukraine.
She said: “One important reason why Nord Stream is so key is because with natural gas flowing through Ukraine, the EU and new states that receive and depend on that gas need to consider Ukraine.
“With Ukraine out of that game I have no doubt that many European states will be very happy to forget about Ukraine.”
Professor Balmaceda warned the varying levels of dependency different European countries have on Russian gas could be used by Vladimir Putin to prevent Europe, NATO and the US from developing the strong united response needed to tackle President Putin’s aggression.
Whilst countries such as the US can afford to take a strong response against Russia, other countries may not be in an economic position to do so.
She said: “[Russia] uses gas to divide European policy vis à vis Ukraine. Just a couple of days ago we had declarations by the French economics minister and he basically said we are not going to allow the US to dictate our policy visa ve Nord Stream, we may have different interests in Nord Stream than the US.”
Although Professor Balmaceda doesn’t believe Russia will cut off gas to Europe completely in a bid to stifle support for Ukraine, she believes Vladimir Putin “will play the carrot and stick game.”
He could hike up gas prices to deter any European resistance against an invasion of Ukraine or “he may find some friendly ears [in Europe] and if that is the case he may propose some price concessions” to encourage Europeans to back off.