Russia killed off any doubt that it was using energy as a weapon by shutting down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Gazprom’s main conduit for natural gas deliveries to Germany, on Wednesday.
While the shutdown, ostensibly for “maintenance,” is scheduled to last only three days – we will see about that – it comes after the Kremlin-controlled gas exporter reduced Nord Stream’s flows by 80 per cent.
At the same time, Gazprom has been steadily reducing gas supplies to Italy – they were down by a quarter this week alone – and France. Russian President Vladimir Putin must be laughing as he strangles the energy flows to the European Union’s three industrial powerhouses, each a supporter of sanctions against Russia and a supplier of weapons to Ukraine.
As the Kremlin works its dark magic, it’s no surprise that Europe’s wholesale gas and electricity prices are up tenfold since this time last year. As the cold weather approaches, and families and factories turn up the heat, they could keep climbing, boosting the odds of energy rationing, rolling factory closures and blackouts.