Gas supply stop: acid test for Europe?

After Gazprom's halt in deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria Russia is now threatening to cut off gas supplies to other countries that refuse to comply with the payment model demanded by Moscow. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, has warned that any companies that comply and pay in roubles will face consequences as this would violate the EU sanctions. Europe's press fears for the bloc's cohesion.

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Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Turn the tables

The West should impose an oil embargo against Russia, the Aargauer Zeitung urges:

“Actually this is how it should be: a united Europe - together with the US - should put Russian ruler Putin over a barrel and impose total isolation if he doesn't end the war. The reality, however, looks different: Europe is divided, and two months after Putin's order to attack there is still no majority consensus on an oil and gas embargo. Instead Putin is the one bullying Europe. ... Now, all Russia's gas and oil customers, including Germany and Switzerland, must finally turn the tables instead of waiting for Putin to blackmail them too. ... After the most recent escalations even the biggest sceptics must have seen the light.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Restore unity

The EU's united front against Putin threatens to start crumbling, Hospodářské noviny fears:

“German, Austrian and Slovakian companies say the payment system demanded by Moscow is acceptable to them. ... Nevertheless it would be downright stupid if Putin's dream of dividing the West now came true. ... The best solution would be for the other EU countries to accept the mode of payment demanded by Russia and then supply Poland and Bulgaria with the gas they need next winter from their own supplies. That will only constitute small amounts, because the Poles already wanted to phase out their reliance on Russian raw materials anyway. First and foremost, however, all the countries of the EU should do what they can to stop relying on Russian gas as soon as possible.” (PL) /

Poland not as energy independent as it claims

Onet warns:

“ In theory Poland is quite well prepared for its Russian supplies being cut off when it comes to infrastructure. But the government's triumphalism is absolutely unjustified. Especially if it turns out that Germany is cut off from Russian gas too, which means that we won't be able to import any - in effect Russian - gas from there. Paradoxically, in the interest of Polish citizens, the PiS government should stop pushing for EU sanctions against Russian gas at this point, at least until the situation stabilises, because in the next heating season they could spell, if not disaster, then at least major problems for us.”

Sme (SK) /

Putin aiming to undermine EU unity

Russian President Vladimir Putin is once again resorting to divide-and-rule tactics, Sme warns:

“The gas payment terms vary among the European customers. This allows the Kremlin to play its 'game' with individual countries and gas companies so as to impose its rouble payment conditions which contradict existing contracts and weaken the current sanctions mechanism. At the same time, this gives the Putin regime a very convenient political tool to undermine the unity of EU countries and sow mutual distrust among them.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Protect the Achilles' heel

La Repubblica stresses just how important unity now is for the EU:

“It is worrying to learn that some European companies that have so far remained anonymous are paying in roubles in defiance of the rules. Any deviation from Europe's unified response gives Putin a glimmer of hope. Unity will also be essential for the other steps in the European response: capping gas prices, a joint fund to help countries that will be hardest hit by the rise in energy costs, and a freeze on Russian oil exports. The biggest obstacle to these measures so far has been Germany, but the mood in Berlin is changing.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Both sides of the pipeline are dependent

Gazeta Wyborcza sheds light on Gazprom's dependence on the European market:

“Why should Putin confine himself to targeting Poland and Bulgaria in the gas war? He might as well turn off the gas tap for all of Europe. There is no doubt that without gas from Russia, which has supplied around a third of Europe's gas requirements in recent years, the EU would be in trouble. ... But how long can Gazprom go on without the money it gets for its gas exports to the EU? Gazprom currently sells about a third of its raw materials in Europe. But these exports account for three-quarters of the Russian company's revenues. If Gazprom were to lose 75 percent of its revenues overnight, wouldn't it have to file for bankruptcy the very next day?”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Why nuclear weapons and gas stops are similar

This warning shot is aimed neither at Poland nor at Bulgaria, Warsaw correspondent Jan Pallokat comments on Deutschlandfunk:

“It's meant to hit the countries that must fear Putin's gas weapon most because of their disastrous energy policies: Hungary, Austria, but above all Germany. This is a weapon that in one respect resembles a nuclear warhead, because it would wreak havoc not only in the countries mentioned, but also in Russia itself, albeit, unlike the bomb, only economically. It is the weapon you threaten with but never use. Putin doesn't have to face a democratic public sphere, and so in both bluffing games he has the advantage of being unpredictable. What if he does turn off the gas tap? This question fuels uncertainty and remains his trump card.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

A welcome opportunity for Bulgaria

Bulgaria must now do what it should have done long ago, Dnevnik writes approvingly:

“Unfortunately, not only Bulgaria but all of Europe has been bamboozled, blackmailed or bought up by Gazprom for a long time. With hindsight we can now see that behind every Gazprom decision was a cocktail of corporate logic, politics, gangster pressure and Russia's deeply corrupt practices. ... If before we always blindly trusted that everything would work out, now the scales have fallen from our eyes. Government after government has done nothing to disengage from Russia's imports of gas and other energy products. Now Russia is doing what we should have done a long time ago. And that is a welcome opportunity.”

Sega (BG) /

Kowtowing won't achieve a thing

Bulgaria must not give in now under any circumstances, Sega stresses:

“Some politicians are still under the illusion that Bulgaria can solve its problem if it yields and agrees to pay in roubles. But who can guarantee that tomorrow the Kremlin won't come up with new conditions and a new pretext to punish unfriendly countries that dare to support Putin's hated Ukraine? ... In this case the saying that 'no sword will cut off a bowed head', as many politicians in our country seem to believe, doesn't hold. On the contrary: a bowed head is the easiest to cut off.”

Polityka (PL) /

Optimally prepared

Polityka comments:

“As of Wednesday, 27 April, no more Russian gas will flow to Poland under the Yamal contract. This long-standing agreement was due to expire at the end of the year in any case. The Russians have now brought this forward somewhat. This is why government representatives say that the cutting off of gas supplies will not pose too great a problem for us. ... We are almost fully diversified, our gas infrastructure is almost complete, we can import gas from any direction, be it Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic or Germany. We import LNG from the US and Qatar, and soon the Baltic Pipe from Norway will be completed. In a word, Putin can try to intimidate us. But we are not afraid.”

Népszava (HU) /

Hungary's Russia-friendliness won't help

A halt in gas or oil supplies would affect Hungary just as much as any other country, Népszava writes anxiously:

“The scenarios under public discussion have so far only considered the case that supplies are stopped 'on the arrival side' - so as a result of an embargo. ... However, when they're delivered via a pipeline, gas molecules cannot be labelled. If the pipeline is sealed off, our [Hungary's] in theory excellent contract with Russia will be worthless. Because as our reward we will receive the exact same punishment as other countries: nothing.”