EU-Russian Relations: The Limits of Mutual Energy (Inter)dependency

06 January 2015
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Now that the international community is considering the likely effects of the newly imposed Western sanctions on Moscow, it is necessary to evaluate the future of EU-Russian relations from the perspective of mutual energy (inter)dependency. The Russian response to new US sanctions was tough; Putin said that they would “definitely retaliate”. Moscow, even before evaluating the sanctions had already reacted on more than one occasion. The recent cancellation of the South Stream project was a clear example of the Russian response. There are numerous reasons leading Russian President Putin to act this way, but the EU’s recent pressure on Bulgaria not to cooperate on the South Stream project with Moscow was crucial, as was the EU’s insistence on energy rules, the drastic fall of petrol prices and the EU’s insistence that Russia accept third parties in its pipeline projects. Hence, the Russian President in declaring his intention to replace the South Stream project with a new gas pipeline, called Turkish Stream or South Stream 2 project, was in fact a demonstration first to the Europeans and then to the world community that Russia is serious in its response to any Western unfriendly acts, including the imposition of the EU/ US sanctions.    


The question is of course, how far the two sides- namely Brussels and Moscow- can afford to go in worsening their mutual energy relations via either by the imposition of EU sanctions or through hard-hitting Russian retaliation. People in this regard may begin to wonder whether Russia, in the near future and in another crisis, might once again dare to cut off gas supplies to Europe as was the case in 2006 and 2009. Now that the Ukrainian debts to Moscow have been solved through a new EU brokered agreement, European concerns, at least for this winter seem to be averted. Consequently, a need arises to make a forecast about the prospect of likely reactions from both sides in the case of another potential Russian gas cut and a predicition as to who might come out worse.


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