As it stands, Russian gas will flow to Germany again. The only question is: for how long? And how much? Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin should be trembling about gas – unpredictability is his most effective weapon.
The word “disinformation” originally comes from the Soviet Union, it was the KGB secret service that first founded a “Desinformazija” unit in the early 1960s. Basically, it’s about putting as much information as possible about a topic into the world, which can also be contradictory. The aim is to create confusion and arguments in the target group. Hardly any other government has mastered this art as virtuously as the one in Moscow, above all: Vladimir Putin. The former KGB man and head of the Kremlin has made deception a raison d’etat, as the anxious wait for gas deliveries shows.
Cheap gas for Russia’s vassals
Actually, Russia was an extremely loyal energy partner for decades, even during the coldest times of the Cold War, oil and gas flowed reliably from the East to Europe. But in the mid-2000s, the leadership in Moscow began to dream of itself as an “energy superpower” (quote from Putin’s confidante Igor Shuvalov) and to use its superpower politically as well. The state-owned company Gazprom granted hefty discounts to loyal vassals like Belarus, while the tap was turned off for recalcitrant regimes like Ukraine.
Basically, not much has changed in the past decade and a half. Except that Russia is now openly at war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin is openly using its raw materials as a weapon. And not only against disobedient neighbors, but against all states that oppose the war. At first, Moscow demanded rubles instead of the usual euros for its gas delivery and turned off the faucet to all customers who refused to exchange currencies. In mid-June, Gazprom only sent 40 percent of the agreed gas volume to Germany through Nord Stream 1.
The turbine of impetus
The official reason given was a turbine that was overhauled in Canada but was not allowed to return to the site due to sanctions. Without this engine, less gas would flow through the pipeline, according to the Russian side. Almost all those involved in the West, such as the manufacturer Siemens and the German government, consider the turbine excuse to be an excuse to increase the pressure. Putin has now upped the ante and said that if Russia does not get the device back, the throughput capacity will fall again significantly at the end of July. “Then there are only 30 million cubic meters a day” – instead of the theoretically possible 170 million cubic meters.
The Kremlin chief hypocritically combines his blatant threat with a reference to the unused Nord Stream 2 pipeline. “We still have a finished route – that’s Nord Stream 2. We can put it into operation,” Putin said, according to the TASS news agency. The federal government rightly speaks of a “clumsy attempt at blackmail”. “The issue of Nord Stream 2 is done for a good reason – and this reason is in the Kremlin. There is nothing more to say about Putin’s recent show,” said FDP parliamentary group leader Lukas Köhler.
Where is SGT-A65?
In theory, everything now depends on a piece of technology called the SGT-A65. Where it is currently is unclear, as is whether more gas will actually arrive in German storage facilities once the turbine has returned. “Gazprom is fulfilling its commitments, has always fulfilled them and is willing to continue to fulfill all its commitments,” the Russian president said shortly before the planned restart of Nord Stream 1. But what he says and what happens next are two different things.
Presumably, the pipeline will be connected to the grid as planned in the coming days, probably with the previously announced capacity of 40 percent. The SGT-A65 turbine could then also be operational and Gazprom might then deliver the promised amounts of energy. The only question is for how long? Two weeks? A month and a half? Half a year? And when will the next turbine “fail”? Or another part of the pipeline? Spare parts are difficult to find anyway because of the sanctions. And who says that the Canadians, indirectly opponents of the war, have properly serviced the engine at all?
One thing is certain: Not even anything has to work. In gas or elsewhere, unpredictability is Putin’s most effective weapon. He will insist on loyalty to the contract and at the same time “interpret” details in his favor. As with the demand that the bill should be paid in rubles instead of euros in the future. He and his cronies in Moscow authorities and energy companies can turn on the gas as they please and watch as Europe trembles at the prospect of a potential supply crisis. It doesn’t help, Germany and the West have to get off the “Russian gas drug” as quickly as possible.