Russia uses its gas and energy resources to ‘blackmail’ Europe, says German economy minister

German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Russia was using its influence and resources as an energy producer to blackmail Europe and Germany amid the oil and gas crisis. gas resulting from the war in Ukraine.

“Russia as an energy supplier has become unreliable,” Habeck said on Thursday, according to the Financial Times. “He uses his great power… to blackmail Europe and Germany.”

His comments follow Russia’s decision to resume gas supplies via Nord Stream 1 on Thursday, although EU officials remain skeptical about how long that supply will last or at what capacity.

President Vladimir Putin has previously warned that pipeline deliveries could be further reduced. Even before Nord Stream 1 was closed for maintenance, flows to Europe were moving at only 60% capacity, with Moscow citing technical issues.

At the time, German officials said Russia was “arming” its energy exports to drive up prices.

Habeck argued Thursday that bringing the key pipeline back online did not eliminate concerns and noted that only 40% of flows had resumed, roughly the same amount as before the maintenance.

“It is not because 40% of flows have resumed that we should fall asleep in a false sense of security which [supply] will be stable from now on,” Habeck said. “On the contrary, we should expect…that they will find a reason to…stop or reduce the flow of gas again in the future.”

The return of Nord Stream 1 flows, although limited, has eased fears that Russia could cut off supply altogether. European Union policymakers have already proposed a 15% reduction in gas consumption that could be mandatory.

European benchmark gas prices rose slightly on Thursday after Nord Stream 1 came back online.

Mary I. Bruner