Europe sounds ‘full mobilization’ as Kremlin closes key fuel pipeline

“We’re at battle,” Emmanuel Macron mentioned on Monday as he described emergency measures France was taking to bolster its power provide and shield its residents and companies from hovering prices.

For months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the French president aspired to function a go-between and peacemaker between Kyiv and Moscow. This week, he and his fellow European leaders have turn out to be belligerents in a sharply escalating power battle between Russia and the West. It was time, Macron mentioned, for a “common mobilization”.

The Kremlin’s weaponization of its fossil fuels has compelled European governments to take drastic measures, unthinkable just a few months in the past, to mitigate the Russian assault and shield their power markets and economies from the affect.

Sweden and Finland had to offer emergency liquidity to their electrical energy producers who have been dealing with growing calls for for ensures for his or her hedging operations.

Finnish Economic system Minister Mika Lintilä mentioned the area could possibly be getting ready to the power sector’s model of the Lehman Brothers financial institution collapse in 2008.

Germany has unveiled a second €65 billion help package deal for households and companies, bringing to some €350 billion the quantity earmarked to this point by EU governments for compensate for hovering costs and diversify provide. Simply two days after taking workplace as Britain’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss introduced a cap on family and enterprise power payments that’s anticipated to value no less than £150billion over two years.

On September 2, the G7 powers additionally agreed to impose a worldwide cap on the value of Russian crude oil, a extra vital income for the Kremlin than fuel, though it might be troublesome to implement and that different main importers reminiscent of China, India and Turkey might refuse to participate.

Line chart of consumer confidence indicator (net balance, more confident less less confident, %) showing that eurozone consumer confidence is at an all-time high

European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen, who is because of current an emergency package deal subsequent week, mentioned the value of Russian fuel imports must also be capped – an concept proposed by Italian Mario Draghi who gained the backing of EU power ministers on Friday, regardless of fears it might push the Russian chief to show off the faucets altogether.

Russia has been clamping down on fuel provides to European markets since September final 12 months, sending wholesale costs 10 instances greater, pushing inflation to 40-year highs and economies to the brink of recession. All through, Moscow both denied what it was doing or mentioned it was for technical causes – which Brussels and member states have disputed.

This week, he lastly gave up the pretense. On Monday, in what seemed like retaliation for proposed oil and fuel worth caps, the Kremlin mentioned fuel deliveries by means of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, its most important conduit to European markets, wouldn’t resume till as soon as the West dropped financial sanctions in opposition to Russia.

“The final masks has fallen,” von der Leyen mentioned.

Russia continues to pump fuel by means of Ukraine and through the TurkStream pipeline – a couple of fifth of the overall quantity it was sending in June – however the prospect of an entire shutdown of fuel flows has come earlier than anticipated by many in Europe.

Putin exaggerated the menace at an financial discussion board in Vladivostock on Wednesday. “We is not going to present something whether it is in opposition to our pursuits. No fuel, no oil, no coal, no gas oil, nothing,” he mentioned.

Moscow additionally acquired a present of help from different oil producers this week – three days after the G7 oil worth cap – when the OPEC Plus group of nations, which incorporates Russia, agreed to chop 100,000 bpd its output.

Cartogram showing gas imports of European countries by source, 2021 compared to January-June 2022

Alexander Novak, Russia’s prime power official, boasted of the “collapse” of European power markets. “Winter is coming and a number of issues are onerous to foretell,” he mentioned.

Nonetheless, some officers and analysts consider this will likely have been the week when Moscow’s strain marketing campaign started to lose steam. An indefinite shutdown of Nord Stream 1, Russia’s fuel pipeline, was purported to be the Kremlin’s massive weapon that will ship the wholesale worth to new stratospheric ranges. However on Wednesday, wholesale costs fell under Monday’s degree.

“If that is all, it might imply the top of the present,” mentioned Simone Tagliapietra, senior researcher on the Bruegel assume tank in Brussels.

European capitals are more and more satisfied that Europe can get by means of the winter with out severe financial and social upheaval or power rationing. Von der Leyen mentioned the EU had “weakened the grip that Russia had on our economic system and our continent”.

Gasoline storage in EU services stands at 82%, effectively forward of the 80% goal set by the bloc for the top of October. Member states have diversified their provides, growing pipeline imports from Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan and LNG from the USA and different producers.

Ursula von der Leyen speaks to the media
European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen, who is because of current an emergency package deal subsequent week, mentioned the value of Russian fuel imports must also be capped © Olivier Hoslet/EPA/Shutterstock

Earlier than its invasion of Ukraine, Russia accounted for 40% of EU fuel imports, however now simply 9%, von der Leyen famous.

“Everybody was ready [Russia] to get to the Nord Stream shutdown in winter, as a result of winter is once they might maximize the strain,” Tagliapietra mentioned. “This acceleration of occasions tells us that the Kremlin in all probability didn’t think about the opportunity of Europe developing with such a response.”

An EU official mentioned: “Putin has failed to attain his targets – our dependence on him has diminished a lot quicker than anticipated.”

Deutsche Financial institution economists now consider the German economic system will contract 3-4% in 2023 as a substitute of 5-6%, with higher-than-expected storage and decreased consumption.

But EU leaders are additionally conscious of the ache that may include hovering power payments this winter and the rising value to EU governments of defending households from exorbitant prices.

“All member states are struggling and so they really feel it could possibly be a winter of discontent,” the official mentioned.

With inflation anticipated to stay excessive subsequent 12 months, shoppers are bracing for the most important hit to residing requirements in a era as wages fail to maintain tempo with costs.

Client confidence has fallen to its lowest degree since information started in 1974 within the UK and it has plunged to near-record lows within the euro zone. The most recent S&P International PMI, a month-to-month enterprise survey, confirmed a contraction in enterprise exercise in August within the eurozone and the UK.

The UK economic system started to contract within the second quarter and even the most recent authorities help has not dispelled a doable recession. The European Central Financial institution now expects the euro zone to stagnate within the final quarter of the 12 months and the primary three months of 2023, and contract fully subsequent 12 months in a bearish situation.

Vladimir Putin gestures at an event

Vladimir Putin performed the menace at an financial discussion board in Vladivostock on Wednesday. He mentioned: “We is not going to present something whether it is in opposition to our pursuits. No fuel, no oil, no coal, no oil, nothing’ © through REUTERS

Angel Talavera, head of European economics at Oxford Economics, mentioned it was “inevitable” that governments would give you larger help packages.

Roberto Cingolani, Italian Minister for Vitality Transition, mentioned: “So long as we’re on this horrible state of affairs, it is smart to have extraordinary measures to guard residents and companies”.

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