The geopolitical divide between Russia and the West has dramatically deepened – perhaps irreversibly -- following Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. But one important issue still binds them, at least for now: energy.
Russia has long been the European Union's primary supplier of natural gas. During the first quarter of 2021, it was responsible for almost half of all the natural gas imported by the bloc.
Nord Stream 2
Nord Stream 2 is an $11 billion pipeline designed to deliver natural gas to Germany from Russia via the Baltic Sea. The project has many critics who say it would only increase the EU's dependency on Russian gas while depriving Ukraine of vital transit fees from existing pipelines that run through its territory.
However, given the Kremlin's latest moves against Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Berlin was suspending certification of Nord Stream 2, effectively putting the project on permanent hold. The United States announced that it was also imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers.
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, acknowledged the EU's heavy dependence on Russian gas but backed the German government's decision.
If Not Russia, Then Where?
So, where can the EU get its natural gas from, besides Russia?
The EU has been trying to cut its dependence on Russian gas over the years, but it is still reliant on Moscow, and it won't be easy to fully detach.
Germany can also import from Norway, the Netherlands, Britain, and Denmark via pipelines. But Norway is delivering natural gas at maximum capacity and says it can't replace any missing supplies from Russia.
Qatar, one of the world's top liquefied-natural-gas producers, also announced that it did not have the capacity to replace Russian gas supplies to Europe, saying that most volumes are tied to long-term contracts.
In the face of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to help the EU find natural gas from other sources.
The EU's von der Leyen has stressed the need to invest in renewables.