Historically, Russia and Occidental countries have not got along very well. Some examples of this tense relationship range from the Cold War to the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Despite these tight relations, gas trade between the regions has been going on for more than five decades (Szulecki & Westphal, 2018). Then, it can be said that the European Union and Russia have interdependent interests.
Nowadays, Russia supplies 40% of Europe´s gas imports, as well as 30% of crude oil and 30% of solid fuels. This business has provided Russia with outstanding flows of money and, on the other side, the European Union has managed to satisfy part of its energy needs (Siddi, 2018). So far it seems like this relationship between Russia and the EU is very positive and rewarding for both regions. However, there are those who argue that Europe´s reliance on Russian gas represents a threat to the EU´s energy security. According to Casier: “a country will only be vulnerable if it has no escape route, no alternatives on offer” (Siddi, 2018). The main challenge for the EU is that gas markets are limited as gas can only be brought to Europe by pipelines, which are mostly in Russia. Hence, it would be hard for the European Union to have access to gas that does not pass through Russian territory.
Therefore, Russia could use its gas as a political weapon against Europe. However, this implies that Russia would be able to bear the losses from quitting gas exports to the European Union. The reality is that Russia is currently facing an economic crisis, which means that stopping its gas exports to Europe would undermine its economy and threaten the stability of the nation (RFE, 2018). The European Union is a much stronger actor in terms of economic power. The EU´s GDP is almost fifteen times larger than Russia´s (Siddi, 2018). This means that Russia is more reliant on gas revenues than the EU is on gas imports. Thus, it is very unlikely for Russia to halt its gas trade with the EU as it would have a devastating impact in its own economy.
In conclusion, while it is evident that a gas disruption from Russia would be harmful to the European Union, it would have a more dramatic effect for Russia. In the case of a gas shortage, the EU could try to meet its gas needs by importing additional gas from Norway or Algeria. Additionally, the new southern gas corridor could make the EU even less reliant on Russia´s gas imports. Thus, it is very unlikely for Russia to trigger an energy war against the European Union as the forecasts are not too optimistic for Russia.
Julio Romero Serrano
RFE. (2018, December 27). Retrieved from Economists: Russia Faces Economic Downturn, Higher Inflation In 2019: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-faces-economic-downturn-higher-inflation-in-2019-economist-predict/29679409.html
Siddi, M. (2018). Identities and Vulnerabilities: The Ukraine Crisis and the Securitisation of the EU-Russia Gas Trade. Helsinki: Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Szulecki, K., & Westphal, K. (2018). Taking Security Seriously in EU Energy Governance: Crimean Shock and the Energy Union. University of Oslo.