The United States has cautioned Russia not to take advantage of Europe’s increasing energy crisis, which has seen gas prices rise due to a lack of supply.
Several energy companies have gone bankrupt in the United Kingdom, where wholesale gas prices set a new high on Wednesday, jumping by 37% in just 24 hours. Meanwhile, companies throughout the continent have been shut down due to the price increase.
Saying that Russia would increase supplies to Europe, President Vladimir Putin appeared to soothe the market, claiming that Russia is meeting its contractual supply requirements, but critics claim that it has avoided supplying more in order to avoid keeping up with escalating demand—and that it wants to use energy as a bargaining chip when Europe enters the winter months.
According to one observer, the Kremlin has concluded that “now is the time to push its geopolitical advantage.”
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Moscow “has a history of using energy as a tool of coercion, as a political weapon” during a visit to Brussels, where he met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other EU officials.
He told reporters on Thursday, “whether that’s what’s happening here now is something I will leave to others.”
Sullivan said it would be a “mistake” for Russia to try to use Europe’s reliance on Russian gas as geopolitical leverage in an interview with the BBC on Thursday.
“We have seen it happen before and we could see it happen again,” he said.
“I think that would ultimately backfire on them, and I believe they should respond to the market demands for increased energy supplies to Europe,” Sullivan added, without elaborating on the repercussions.
Russia has been accused of intentionally withholding natural gas from the market in order to put pressure on Berlin and the EU to certify Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will transport gas from Russia to Germany.
Kyiv has long expressed worry that the new pipeline will result in a loss of transit earnings to Ukraine. The United States was one of the countries concerned that it would give Moscow a geopolitical advantage.
Timothy Ash, emerging markets senior sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, said Russia was currently exploiting the gas market “to seize political advantage because it wants Nord Stream 2 certified to undermine Ukraine.”
Ash told Newsweek: “Russia has realized with carbon transition, its goose is cooked. It has decided that now is the time to push its geopolitical advantage because it’s winter. If it is going to use the gas card, probably it is the last year to do it.”
The broader difficulty, according to Sullivan, is “global” and encompasses “both oil and gas supplies,” which were critical to the international economic recovery following COVID.
“It is a challenge where the supply of these sources of energy are not meeting the growing demand as economies recover,” he told the BBC.