Russian gas heats and feeds several European nations, the same ones that now that the possibility of a war between Ukraine Y Russia seems to materialize they fear the cut of the supply. Or worse still: that it becomes unaffordable for the citizens.
U.S, committed to defending Ukraine and its European allies from the OTAN, has already been launched to negotiate other sources of origin for gas. Hence the Emir in Qatar, the sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Zani, has reached the White House this Monday.
It will be enough? Does the government of Vladimir Putin Do you already have the upper hand?
“It is a very relative bargaining power”. Even when the situation seems tilted to one side, the professor of International Relations at the American University in the Emirates, Mohamed Badine El Yattioui, note that there are more edges to consider.
“100% of Latvia’s gas imports come from Russia, in Finland they add up to 98%, while in Poland they reach 55%“, remember. And it is also true that the powerful Germany It is not in a good position either, according to the EFE agency, with 55%.
“Because, EE. UU. has been negotiating, for several days, with Qatar, Algeria Y Egypt, mainly. The great option is Qatar, although the problem with them is their export limit. They have already closed their deals and the gas will go, mostly, to Asian countries. And Russia knows that”.
“Nor should we forget that U.S has proposed to sell part of its gas to Europe. Although that would be a good option for the western alliance, it would cause a problem at the domestic level due to its high cost. According to experts, it could rise up to seven times what Russian gas costs”.
Another problem is uncovered: how do you explain to a citizenry hit by the coronavirus pandemic that there is a conflict and that is why the prices are in the clouds? “Clearly there will be social tensions and if governments decide to subsidize the price, they will increase their public debt, a huge cost for the community”.
The gas issue is on the agenda of Putin for years. El Yattioui notes that the president “fully understands Russia’s dependence on gas exports and the impact on its economy”.
What do you mean?
“When there was the crisis with Ukraine in 2014, Putin he realized that the pipes that transported the gas passed through Poland and Ukrainian territory, so he depended on them”.
In addition to having to pay taxes to them, in the event of a war, they might as well shut him down, so he built the Nord Stream 2, a “direct access to Germany via the Baltic Sea”. Putin also devised the Turk Stream, a project that would feed Turkey —gateway to Europe— across the Black Sea.
Currently, none are operational, so the negotiating capacity Russian danger.
“I think that Putin does not want a conflict, but he is a chess player and understands that if he pushes to the maximum, he will create a big problem for the Ukrainians, Europeans and Americans.”.
Following this path, even with all the problems that may arise, is convenient for you at the management level of the public opinion. On the one hand, it will show that Russia has the military power, that it is a great power, and that it can discuss and negotiate directly with the United States, “a bit like they do chinese”.
Qatar makes its way
In the midst of the crisis, the spotlights point on Qatar, a country that, as noted by El Yattioui, wants to position itself as a relevant nation in the region of Gulf. And what remains on record today is that the powers of the world seek it to find solutions.
Qatar is already responsible for 5.2% of gas imports from the European Union.
“It is not a geopolitical issue, but one of influence”, says the specialist.
“It is a small country -which, not counting foreigners, reaches a million inhabitants- in a key location in the Middle East because it is close to key Asian nations, such as India or China. It is also a large gas producer considering its size.”.
And, of course, the current context makes his diplomatic ambitions clear.
“Remember that, during the administration of Donald Trump, they hosted the negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, and that at the end of this year it will be the World Cup. It is said that they want to be the Geneva of the 21st century, a city where all international events take place”.
Reaching a gas sale agreement would be a good result, but not achieving it would not be a bad deal for them either.
“Qatar does not have a large army, it does not have the capacity to impose its point of view on the international agenda, but it has the capacity to influence, to demonstrate that it is present”.
For now, the plan is working. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the president of European Council, Charles MichelThey welcome having it closer and reinforcing their energy alliance, which, according to EFE, already represents 5.2% of EU imports.