Even as Europe gets ready to phase out all Russian imports, the continent had been already facing a challenging and unpredictably cold winter when it came to its energy supplies.
But on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin once more threatened to halt all deliveries completely, a move that he implied would cause Europe to “freeze.”
The region is vulnerable as it tries to restock its energy storage in advance of the colder months because Russia has already stopped supplying gas to the area due to technical problems with the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
Putin told business leaders in Vladivostok in response to EU suggestions to impose price caps on Russian energy imports that Russia could still decide to renegotiate current supply agreements.
“Will there be any political decisions that contradict the contracts? Yes, we just won’t fulfill them. We will not supply anything at all if it contradicts our interests,” Putin said at the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s far east.
“We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil — we will not supply anything,” Putin said.
“We would only have one thing left to do: as in the famous Russian fairy tale, we would let the wolf’s tail freeze,” he said.
According to the Russian newspaper Pravda, the story involves a cunning fox who tricked a foolish wolf into putting his tail into an ice hole so that it could catch fish in the frozen river.
“The fox would hop around the desperate and hungry wolf saying “freeze, freeze, the wolf’s tail” until the ice hole froze trapping the wolf in the ice. Men from the village then came and beat the wolf for all the bad things that he had done to them in summer. The wolf struggled and escaped, but his tail was left in the frozen ice hole,” Pravda said.
The possibility of energy rationing in Europe this winter is increased by Putin’s threat to stop all supplies. The EU has already requested that its members reduce their gas consumption by 15% in the fall and winter on a voluntary basis, but this may not be enough to prevent the need for gas use restrictions.
A number of European governments have announced measures to protect citizens from rocketing energy bills. Western countries have proposed price caps on Russian oil and gas in an effort to exert pressure on Russia’s energy revenues, which they claim are financing the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called the situation in Europe “extraordinary… because Russia manipulates our energy markets and is an unreliable supplier.
She asserted that the Commission would propose immediate measures to assist consumers, such as a requirement to cut back on electricity use during peak hours, a limit on the profits of companies that generate electricity at a loss, and other initiatives to spread the cost of rising energy prices.
“Low carbon energy sources are making unexpected revenues, which do not reflect their production costs. It is now time for consumers to benefit from the low costs of low carbon energy sources, like renewables,” von der Leyen said in a statement, saying fossil fuel companies should also contribute to easing pressures on consumers.
“Oil and gas companies have also made massive profits. We will therefore propose a solidarity contribution for fossil fuel companies. Because all energy sources must help address this crisis.”
(Adapted from CNBC.com)