A new article at the European Voice calls upon the European Union to get its act together with a common energy policy to achieve bargaining parity with Gazprom:
Imagine, say, winter 2015, and an announcement by Gazprom that it cannot provide the gas volumes it had promised. It then declares that it must re-negotiate terms with all of its European customers, who have in the interim failed to diversify supplies. Gazprom could then effectively ‘cherry-pick’ customers for scarce supplies. Political co-operation could well become a factor. Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, let’s say, get supplies equal to what they had been promised – a reward for their co-operation with Russia on other matters.
Germany is too big to mess with, so its deliveries continue uninterrupted. But chilly relations with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could translate into cold radiators and/or higher prices for these states.Russia’s position is even more comfortably piquant in relation to Poland. It could at a minimum inform Warsaw that it will no longer transit gas through Polish territory, denying Poland valuable revenues. Or it could blackmail Poland by promising extra gas in exchange for “understandings”, such as on US missile defence facilities.Even if it is not currently Russia’s political strategy, a leverage-through-deficit scenario is hardly unthinkable. On past form, Vladimir Putin or a Kremlin leadership he has put in place would not hesitate to exploit such an advantage to the fullest.The only way to prevent such potential arm-twisting, notably of central Europe, is for the transatlantic community to redouble its efforts to get access to hydrocarbons from Norway and the Caspian.The EU should put its money where its mouth is and achieve genuine unity in its approach to Russia. Washington needs to support that effort by focusing more serious political attention on pipeline issues, currently a matter for deputy assistant secretaries.