- The Washington Times
Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline restarted Thursday after a 10-day maintenance pause despite fears it would not come back online amid tensions with Russia.

Moscow says it is not using gas supplies for leverage as it battles Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine and will meet its obligations, but Europe isn’t so sure.

The pipeline, linking Russian energy suppliers directly to German and Western European customers, is delivering gas at only 40% of its capacity, with Moscow blaming the delayed return of a key piece of equipment that was serviced in Canada, according to the BBC. A second completed-but-inactive Nord Stream 2 pipeline also linking Russia and Germany appears to be sidelined indefinitely because of the Ukraine war.

The diminished flow spells uncertainty for Germany and other countries that are heavily reliant on Russian energy and will want to store supplies heading into the winter.

“Unfortunately, the political uncertainty and the 60% cut from mid-June remain,” tweeted Klaus Mueller, president of the Federal Network Agency for Digitization, Climate Neutrality & Resilience in Germany.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged EU countries this week to reduce their gas consumption by 15% through March, in anticipation of shortages if Russia cuts off supplies. The plan is voluntary, but Brussels could make it mandatory in a supply emergency.

“The schedule for the maintenance activities has been closely coordinated with Nord Stream’s upstream and downstream partners,” according to a statement from Nord Stream, the Swiss-based gas pipeline consortium that includes Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy company.

Europe has been dependent on Russian fossil fuels for several years, but there is a movement within the countries of the European Union to find new suppliers following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” Mrs. von der Leyen said in a statement this week. “Whether it is a partial, or a major cut-off of Russian gas, or a ‘total’ cut-off of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready.”

Separately, the EU’s just-announced plan to cut gas consumption this winter to reduce Russian leverage was bluntly rejected by two member states that are typically strong supporters of the bloc.

Officials in Spain and Portugal said Thursday they opposed the plan for their countries, arguing they get little of their gas from Russia and their pipeline grids have little connection to the rest of the continent.

“We will defend European values, but we won’t accept a sacrifice regarding an issue that we have not even been allowed to give our opinion on,” Spain’s Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said, the Associated Press reported. “No matter what happens, Spanish families won’t suffer cuts to gas or to the electricity to their homes.”

Portuguese Environment and Energy Minister Joao Galamba noted the Iberian countries have never been linked to the main European pipeline networks, which have relied heavily on Russian supplies, and the EU’s mandatory cuts and savings would be “unsustainable” for his country.

“Portugal was for years and years disadvantaged because it had no links” to the rest of Europe’s energy distribution network, he told the Portuguese newspaper Publico on Thursday, and the country has always had to buy “more expensive gas” from other sources.

• Mike Glenn contributed to this report, which was based in part on wire service reports.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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