Germany and the EU are fighting to cut off Russian gas, and the Baltics are taking a dramatic step

The pressure on the European Union to stop supplying Russian gas is growing, as some countries are starting to turn off the tap.

The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became the first region in Europe to completely abandon Russian gas supplies this weekend, and they called on other countries on the continent to do the same.

Lithuania, the first single EU country to take the step, said on Saturday that the country was acting “in response to Russia’s energy blackmail in Europe,” according to a press release from the country’s energy ministry.

But whether this will lead to other European countries giving up Russian gas is a big question.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Sunday that Russia’s crimes could not go unanswered, but on Monday said a full-scale embargo would hurt Germany more than Russia.

“We need to plan tough sanctions, but gas cannot be replaced in the short term,” Lindner told reporters before meeting with the Eurogroup, an informal body of EU finance ministers.

“We would do more harm to ourselves than to them,” Lindner said.

Germany, which imported about 55 percent of its gas from Russia last year, is in a particularly difficult situation. In total, the EU receives about 40 percent of its gas from Russia.

The Baltic countries import much less gas from Russia. Last year, Lithuania received about 26 percent of its gas directly from Russia, according to Bloomberg. Now the country will rely on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States and Norway, according to Bloomberg, citing the country’s energy minister.

Morgan Bazilyan, a professor of public policy at the Colorado School of Mining, told The Hill that eight years ago Lithuania developed a floating installation for storage and regasification at Klaipeda’s LNG terminal that allows the country to receive gas from other countries.

“They were able to make statements today because of the planning they did eight years ago,” he said. “Both Latvia and Estonia seem to go with them.”

While Lithuania cannot be an example of how countries can “get rid of Russian gas” overnight, the country is “a very good example of planning your energy security, not just handing it over to market forces,” said Brenda Schaefer. , international power engineer. a specialist in naval graduate school, told The Hill.

Lithuania’s gas transportation system has been operating without Russian gas imports since April 1, with zero flow coming through the Lithuanian-Belarusian connection, the country’s Ministry of Energy reports.

“As of this month, there is no more Russian gas in Lithuania,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. tweeted on Saturday.

Then the Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Šimanite spoke on Sunday on Twitter that “from now on and so on Lithuania will not consume a single cube [centimeter] poisonous Russian gas “.

Meanwhile, the general director of the Latvian company Conexus Baltic Grid Uldis Boris told Latvian radio this weekend that “from April 1, Russian natural gas will no longer enter Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.”

The Baltic states are much smaller economies than other European gas-importing countries, and as a result, these steps, while important, will have less of an impact on Russia than if major countries had turned off the tap.

Basilian noted that although the shift “gives the right optics”, it is “a relatively small piece of the European puzzle”.

“This is very small compared to, say, Germany or Italy or other countries that rely on natural gas,” said Basilian.

In the short and medium term, a bigger European embargo on Russian energy is unlikely, given the dependence of countries like Germany on Russian gas, Schaefer said.

Germany and other major EU members also have much larger industrial sectors that depend on Russian gas. This gave Russia leverage over Germany, which before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine supported the controversial new pipeline from Russia.

“For a country like Germany, which is based on heavy production – like steel, cars and other equipment – the issue of gas prices has a completely different economic impact than for a country like Lithuania, which is mostly light industry,” Schaefer said. .

Schaefer also noted the tension between European climate goals and the current need to maintain traditional energy needs through more pipeline and LNG infrastructure projects.

“There is a conflict in a sense between European climate goals and the construction of new infrastructure that would guarantee their energy security,” Schaefer said. “Surprisingly, almost, the climate camp would have preferred the status quo.”

Although the Baltic states’ decision to stop importing Russian gas is unlikely to extend to the entire EU, Basilian described the weekend’s events as “a symbol that the rest of Europe is really serious about it” and that the continent “We’re going to look at diversification from Russia.”

One way to do this would be to supply LNG from the United States. President Biden recently announced that the United States would supply an additional 15 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe this year.

The EU has also said it intends to pave the way for 2027 on how to abandon Russian energy imports, and Basilian has expressed confidence that the US “will be part of this decision”.

Despite its small size, the Baltic region is another market that will import LNG, Schaefer said. And while it won’t just be from U.S. sources, greater market demand for LNG in general also means greater demand for U.S. LNG, she explained.

The Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, also houses the NATO Center for Excellence in Energy Security, which reflects how the country views energy “as a truly important national security issue,” Schaefer added.

“They seem to be the main voice in NATO on these issues, so I think it will affect NATO’s thinking,” she said.

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