US officials claim that the Biden administration is working tirelessly behind the scenes to maintain the unity of the European allies against Russia as Moscow continues to cut its energy supplies to the European Union, igniting fears on both sides of the Atlantic about the possibility of severe gas shortages this winter.
Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom announced on Monday that it would cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany in half, to just 20% of capacity. According to a US official, the move was in retaliation for Western sanctions, and it places the West in “uncharted territory” in terms of whether Europe will have enough gas to get through the winter.
According to officials, the White House sent Amos Hochstein, the presidential coordinator for global energy, to Europe on Tuesday in response to the unrest. He will travel to Paris and Brussels to meet with the US-EU energy task force, which was formed in March, one month after Russia invaded Ukraine.
“This was our greatest concern,” said the United States official. According to the official, the impact on Europe could reverberate back to the US, raising natural gas and electricity prices. It will also be a major test of European resilience and unity in the face of Russia’s continued presence in Ukraine.
After years of pleading with EU members to conserve gas and stockpile it for the winter, energy ministers reached a preliminary agreement on Tuesday to cut gas consumption by 15% from August to March.
In order to address Europe’s gas shortages, officials also announced that discussions about increasing nuclear power production will take place in the upcoming days. Germany planned to completely phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022, but US officials are hoping to persuade Berlin to extend the life of its three remaining nuclear power plants in the face of the energy crisis, according to an official.
US officials, who have been in close contact with German and French officials on this subject, are extremely concerned that Europe will face a severe gas shortage this winter. Because Nord Stream 1 will only provide a fraction of its capacity, EU countries will struggle to replenish their reserves in the coming months.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Germany abandoned plans for another Russia-Europe gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2. The United States was opposed to the pipeline, claiming that it would only increase Europe’s reliance on Russian gas. Germany, on the other hand, argued that the pipeline was purely commercial and that it could serve as an energy bridge as it phased out nuclear and coal.
The US eventually granted waivers, allowing the pipeline project to proceed without crippling sanctions.
Officials now say that a 15% reduction in Europe’s gas consumption, combined with an increase in global liquefied natural gas exports to Europe, including from the United States, is unlikely to be enough to compensate for the shortages.
“Russia is waging an open gas war against a united Europe,” Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said on Tuesday. According to the US official, Russia is “lashing out” and attempting to “destabilize Europe” because their goals in Ukraine are not being met.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council described Russia’s actions as the country’s latest attempt to “use natural gas as a political and economic weapon.”
“Energy markets are under pressure, consumer prices have gone up, and the security of the world’s energy supply is at risk because of Russia’s energy coercion. These actions only serve to highlight how crucial it is that the United States and the European Commission continue their efforts to lessen our reliance on Russian energy.” So says the spokesperson. We will keep collaborating with our European allies to lessen our reliance on Russian energy while also supporting their preparations for future Russian energy market instability.