Russia expects to export a record amount of natural gas this year, despite U.S. efforts -- including through sanctions threats -- to convince European states to cut their reliance on Russian gas.
Russian business and government officials at an energy conference in Moscow on October 3 said that Russian gas exports could exceed 200 billion cubic meters this year, beating last year's all-time high of 194 billion cubic meters.
Europe continues to be Russia's largest customer for gas, and Russia's Gazprom gas monopoly controls 35 percent of the gas market in Europe, more than any other supplier.
Officials said Russia hopes to increase its share of the European market to 40 percent in coming years, and expects that could happen because European production of gas is declining and countries are looking for other sources to make up the shortfall.
"We have been hearing about the reduction in Russian supplies for many years now," Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak told the conference. "But in spite of this, Europe keeps increasing Russian gas imports."
Novak claimed that some shiploads of liquefied natural gas from Russia have even reached the shores of the United States this year, "despite the fact that the United States is reluctant to see Russian gas."
The United States for years has encouraged European allies to diversify away from Russian gas, contending that it gives Russia too much leverage over their economies.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has been especially critical of Germany's joint project with Gazprom to jointly build a pipeline carrying Russian gas through the Baltic Sea directly to Germany -- bypassing Poland and Ukraine.
Washington has threatened to impose U.S. sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project, which could expose German and other European companies to penalties for participating in the venture.
Trump, who said in 2017 that the United States should be "energy dominant" around the world, wants it to become a major liquefied gas exporter to Europe as the U.S. industry taps into a shale-gas boom.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 3 attacked the U.S. stance, saying he hoped that European countries won't be "weak" and cave to U.S. pressure on the Nord Stream project.
"Russia always has been and will remain the most reliable supplier," Putin said after talks with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in St. Petersburg, adding that Russian gas supplied via pipelines is significantly cheaper than U.S. liquefied gas.
"Supplies come directly from Yamal in Siberia. There are no transit risks," he said.
Putin claimed it would be "silly and wasteful" if Europe opted for a more expensive option, hurting its consumers and its global competitiveness.
Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Aleksandr Medvedev echoed Putin's comments, telling the conference that Russia has a significant price advantage over U.S. liquefied imports.
"As the Russian saying goes, they try to scare us, but we are not afraid," he said.
He added that Europe might need as much as 100 billion cubic meters of new gas imports by 2030 because its own production is falling.
Despite U.S. and European sanctions that prohibit Western oil and gas companies from making new investments in Russia, Novak said Russia hoped to double its gas exports worldwide by 2030 to meet soaring global demand for the clean fossil fuel.
That would require Gazprom to build new pipelines to both China and Europe, as well as ramp up its production of liquefied gas, where Russia has been a minor player.