European Union leaders at the summit last week made a commitment to cut their dependency on Russian gas. The Ukraine crisis has highlighted the issue: about 30 percent of the gas the EU consumes comes from Russia.
Not that there is any immediate risk of the Kremlin turning off the taps. After all, Russia gets around 14 percent of its entire export earnings from gas it sells to other European countries.
What’s more, the EU is better placed to withstand a disruption of gas supplies than it was in 2009 when Moscow last cut off gas supplies to Kiev. Then 80 percent of Russian gas was routed via the Ukraine, according to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Now it is around 50 percent, largely because of a new pipeline that connects Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The EU also responded to the 2009 shutdown by building “interconnectors” between different countries. As a result, it is easier to shunt gas and electricity from countries that have excess energy to those that face a shortage – though these connections are still patchy and need to be built up.
This is relevant in what some pundits, such as Rem Korteweg of the Centre for European Reform, consider a possible escalation scenario: that Russia cuts supplies of gas through Ukraine but continues pumping it via its other two pipelines to the West – one through the Baltic and the other through Poland.