Why is Russia cutting gas supplies to the rest of Europe? What does this mean for winter?

Russia has cut gas supplies to several European countries, deepening the energy crisis the continent was already facing before the war began in Ukraine.

Now, as winter approaches and major gas pipelines remain out of service, European leaders are trying to secure alternative energy supplies.

They say Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the energy as political leverage to swing the conflict in Ukraine in his favor.

Here are the key things you need to know.

Which countries has Russia cut off gas supplies to?

Russia has cut off gas to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlandssaying that they had refused to pay their bills in Russian currency.

Poland and Bulgaria have openly denounced Moscow’s payment rule, while Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the move “a kind of blackmail”.

Russia has reduced deliveries to six other countries.

Many European Union countries have sent weapons to Ukraine to help it fight against Russian forces. (Reuters: Francois Lenoir)

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also mutually agreed in April to reject Russian gas as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine.

Germany’s gas supply has been cut by two-thirds, with Russia accusing part of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline of being sent to Canada for maintenance and not being returned.

The cut has occurred after the EU imposed heavy sanctions and members began supplying arms to Ukraine.

What is the Nord Stream 1 pipeline?

Nord Stream 1 is the great european gas pipeline.

It flows under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and is Germany’s main source of Russian gas.

A man in high visibility and a helmet walks in front of pipes.
Nord Stream 1 is Russia’s main gas pipeline.(Reuters: Hannibal Hanschke)

Three other pipelines transport Russian gas to Europe, but that passing through Poland and Belarus has been closed.

Another via Ukraine and Slovakia still brings reduced amounts of gas despite the fighting, as does one via Turkey to Bulgaria.

Russia says the coin sent to Canada was not returned due to sanctions. Canada says it returned the part, but Germany does not say where it is.

How will the gas shortage affect Europe and the rest of the world?

Gas is used not only to heat homes, but also in processes most people will never see, including automotive manufacturing, glass bottle manufacturing, and milk and cheese pasteurization.

Many businesses cannot immediately switch to other energy sources, and equipment containing molten metal or glass is destroyed if the heating is turned off.

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Europe is now scrambling to fill up your gas reserve before winterwhen demand increases to keep homes warm and power plants running.

Europe’s gas reserves are only 65 percent fullagainst its target of 80% by November 1.

Currently, his plans are to use less gas to build storagebut high energy prices have already put the continent at increased risk of recession.

If Russia completely cuts gas supplies, it could deal a major blow to Europe’s already struggling economy.

Does the shortage mean that Europeans will freeze this winter?

Homes, schools and hospitals are unlikely to lose heat because governments are required to first impose rationing on businesses.

Officials may have to choose to sacrifice industries or hit consumers with even higher bills instead.

So what can Europe do in the face of the shortage?

The EU is trying to switch to more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) places like the United States and Qatar, which comes by ship.

Germany is accelerate the construction of LNG import terminals but building them will take years.

And global LNG export facilities are already operating at full capacity and LNG alone cannot close the gap.

Conservation and other sources of energy will be essential.

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The EU has offered Member States reduce their gas consumption by 15% in the coming months, and officials want impose mandatory reductions in the event of a risk of severe gas shortage or exceptionally high demand.

Countries are also scrambling to secure alternative gas and oil supplies.

Italian, French and European leaders are concluding agreements this week with their Algerian, Azerbaijani and United Arab Emirates counterparts.

What does Vladimir Putin get out of the gas cut?

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s revenue from exporting oil and gas to Europe has doubled to $95 billion ($138 billion).

The raise of Russia’s energy revenue in the last five months alone is three times what it would usually bring over a whole winter.

It is therefore possible that Mr Putin thinks that painful utility bills and a recession could undermine public support for Ukraine and swing the negotiations in his favoraccording to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

A man in a suit sits at a table with a red, blue, and crested flag behind it.
Vladimir Putin can hope to tip the negotiations with Europe in favor of Russia. (Reuters: Mikhail Klimentiev/Kremlin)

“It would be unwise to exclude the possibility that Russia decides to give up the revenues it derives from the export of gas to Europe in order to gain political weight“, said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA.

Mr Putin said the amount of gas pumped through Nord Stream 1 will drop further to around a fifth of its capacity.

PA/ABC