Russia Resumes Gas Supply at Nord Stream 1, but a Full Cut-off Hangs Over Europe's Head

'Russia is blackmailing us, Europe needs to be ready' EU Commission President von der Leyen said after Putin threatened to further reduce the flow of gas

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A Nord Stream facility in the German city Lubmin, Thursday.
A Nord Stream facility in the German city Lubmin, Thursday.Credit: Markus Schreiber/AP
DPA
Reuters
Haaretz

Russia is resumed supplies of gas via a major pipeline to Europe on Thursday, the pipeline operator said, amid concerns Moscow would use its vast energy exports to push back against Western pressure over its invasion of Ukraine and block the pipeline altogether.

Following 10 days of maintenance work, gas flow to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline resumed Thursday morning at reduced capacity, dispelling fears in Europe that the closure of the pipeline could become permanent and exacerbate the continent's energy crisis.

The Nord Stream AG spokesman said it would take some time to reach usual gas transport levels. The latest gas supply volumes were the same as those announced before the maintenance period – around 67 million cubic meters per day – and correspond to about 40% of maximum supply capacity, he said.

The pipeline restart came after comments from Russia's foreign minister showed the Kremlin's goals had expanded during the five-month war. Sergei Lavrov told state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Russia's military "tasks" in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbas region. Lavrov also said Moscow's objectives will expand further if the West keeps supplying Kyiv with long-range weapons such as the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The route map of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Germany.Credit: Markus Schreiber/AP

Concern that Russian supplies of gas sent through Nord Stream 1 pipeline could be stopped by Moscow prompted the European Union to tell member states on Wednesday to cut gas usage by 15% until March as an emergency step. Some countries, including Spain, have already pushed back and said they wouldn't demand consumers cut back their consumption.

"Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, describing a full cut-off of Russian gas flows as "a likely scenario" for which "Europe needs to be ready". A spokesperson for Austria's OMV said Russia's Gazprom signalled it would deliver around 50% of agreed gas volumes via Nord Stream on Thursday, levels seen before the shutdown.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in an interview with RND that "The Canadians said, 'We have a lot of questions,' so we said, 'We understand that, but if we do not get the gas turbine, we will not get more gas, and then we will not be able to give Ukraine any support at all, because we will be busy dealing with a popular uprising.'" However, she later clarified that her statement was "perhaps too exaggerated", but is a possible scenario.

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a German military base, Wednesday.Credit: John Macdougall / AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Tuesday that gas volumes could drop as low as 33 million cubic meters by the end of July if a gas turbine sent to Canada for repairs wasn't returned to Russia soon. German officials have said Russia is using the delay in returning the turbine as a pretext.

Last month, German Economy Minister Robert Hubbeck announced the second phase of the country's emergency plan to deal with the expected shortage of Russian gas, telling a press conference that gas supplies to the country are dwindling and that there is a need to reduce consumption. "From now on there is a gas shortage in Germany," he said. "The current situation must give us a false sense of security," he added. With the government acutely aware of the danger to the country's long-term supply of gas, some observers have speculated that German industry and households could face hiking gas costs in order to lower demand.

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