In 2006, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and Georgia, indicating that Moscow is prepared to use energy resources to exert political power over Europe. Keith C. Smith of CSIS writes that, though European leaders initially showed unified opposition to Moscow’s power play, there have since been few tangible indications of new EU policies which would protect against future Russian manipulation. The development of an EU energy strategy—with equal benefits to all member states—is being undermined by emerging bilateral energy deals between Moscow and individual states. Moreover, the EU’s refusal to hold Russia to standards like The Energy Charter Treaty has made transparency in energy deals nearly impossible.
Germany is now in a unique position to push for policies that promote Western European energy independence. With the rotating EU presidency and an economy attractive to Russian energy interests, Germany can also provide for the current economic needs of Eastern European countries who have been threatened by Russia and its state-run energy monopoly Gazprom. But Merkel and Germany appear to be acquiescing to Gazprom’s push for more deals, judging by recent agreements with BASF, EON, and Ruhrgas.
Merkel’s support of the Northern Europe Gas Pipeline (NEGP)—negotiated between Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladamir Putin—puts national economic interest over the needs of Central and Eastern Europe. A gas line running through Poland, parallel to the current Yamal I line, would have cost less and could provide greater energy security to central Europe. Russia’s monopoly on gas and oil shipments from Central Asia (through Gazprom and the monopoly transport system, Transneft) will most likely also increase energy prices for European consumers. Russia is unyielding in its insistence on further investment in Europe’s energy infrastructure; the NEGP will increase its leverage on EU policy decisions. As European dependency on Russian natural gas increases, the EU will need to make a concerted effort to protect its member states from Russian influence in foreign policy. The current trends do not look promising.