Putin wants the world to know Russia is a superpower, expert says
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he sees a way forward to ease tensions with Russia over Ukraine. It comes after he held a series of urgent talks with Moscow and Kyiv. Mr Macron spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week over concerns that Russia could invade and capture the former Soviet state.
As Russia has mustered more than 100,000 troops along its shared border with Ukraine – with Ukraine also stationing its own army in position – Mr Macron said he now saw the “possibility” of talks involving the two countries.
Despite this, the first US troops arrived in neighboring Romania on Tuesday, while the UK sent 350 troops to Poland, another country bordering Ukraine and Belarus, considered to be under the sphere of influence. of Putin.
Many claim an invasion is imminent, which Russia has vehemently denied it was planning, arguing instead that it is protecting itself against NATO’s eastward expansion.
The question of gas supply has constantly arisen during the tensions, as much of Europe depends on Russian gas, with a considerable part of this gas transiting through Ukraine before reaching the EU.
Europe news: The continent has been warned of a possible gas crisis if Russia invades Ukraine
Emmanuel Macron: The French president said he saw a way forward to ease tensions
Russia supplies Europe with around 40% of its gas, 15% of which passes through Ukraine.
Professor Julian Lindley-French, an internationally renowned strategic analyst and defense adviser who has worked with NATO, notes that this places much of the continent in an already vulnerable position, as Western Europe becomes increasingly increasingly dependent on Nord Stream gas pipeline projects. , especially Germany.
He told Express.co.uk: “A lot of European gas storage is in Ukraine.
“What interests me is whether Putin would destroy this, making Europe’s senseless obsession with carbon-neutral goals impossible.
“There’s no doubt that the timing of it all has to do with that.”
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Nord Stream 2: the gas pipeline directly connects Russia and the EU
The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline directly connects Russia and the EU, more precisely Germany, via a pipe that passes under the Baltic Sea.
It was only completed in September but has yet to be commissioned, with the first pipeline opening in 2015.
The US has said Nord Stream 2 will not open if Russia invades Ukraine, but Professor Lindley-French says Germany will likely give it the green light in the coming months as there are “powerful” in-game lobbies that have a major influence on the German government.
He said: “Russia is using Nord Stream 2 as leverage, but Germany will use it because there is a strong lobby within the German government that supports Nord Stream 2.
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EU news: Russia supplies Europe with around 40% of its gas
Vladimir Putin: The Russian President pictured at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics
“There’s a powerful lobby in Germany pushing for this, and Germany has a different relationship with Russia than most of Europe, the UK and the US, because of their history.
“The senseless scrapping of three of the six relatively young nuclear power plants and the obsession with carbon neutrality goals at all costs make Germany fundamentally dependent for much of its energy on Russia.
“And then that extends to a lot of Europe, and Russia is exploiting that scrupulously, because at the moment our gas storage is so limited that the simple fact is that we have to prioritize and ration gas in case denial of Russian gas – or at least Germany and some other European countries would – Russia will use it ruthlessly in its efforts.
“It’s part of the new warfare he’s using, it’s hybrid warfare, cyber warfare and hyper warfare in conjunction.”
Gas pipelines: some of the gas pipelines connecting Russia to Europe
This week, the United States and the EU pledged to work to ensure gas supply can respond to pipeline flow disruptions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alongside EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, told reporters in Washington: “We are currently working together to protect Europe’s energy supply from shocks. supplies, including those that may result from further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Mr Blinken said coordination with allies and partners includes “how best to share energy reserves in the event that Russia turns off the tap or triggers a conflict that disrupts the flow of gas through Ukraine. “.
Mr Borrell added that the immediate priority is to diversify energy sources and gas flows to avoid supply disruptions and “ensure that global energy markets are liquid, competitive and well supplied”.
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For years, leaders have warned that Europe must diversify its gas supplies and end its dependence on Russia and foreign imports.
Last year, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, warned that the EU was “vulnerable” because it currently imports 90% of its gas.
In what was seen as a thinly veiled reference to Russia, she said: “Europe today is too dependent on gas and too dependent on gas imports.”
On the same day, German Green Party co-chair Annalena Baerbock, who is now in government, accused Moscow of playing a “game of poker” with European gas supplies and called on Germany to resist pressure from the Kremlin to certify the controversial Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2.
She said, “We can’t afford to blackmail [by Russia].”