Russia needs European cash more than Europe needs Russian gas
Soaring gas prices suggest Russia has Europe over a barrel, but it’s a tenuous scenario that could backfire on Moscow
Overplaying your hand in energy markets rarely ends well. When Arab members of Opec announced an oil embargo as a result of the 1973 October war, importing countries raced to develop domestic oilfields and alternative energy sources, resulting in the most drastic decline in oil consumption the world has ever seen.
That fact represents a serious threat to Russia, should it seek to use its position as an energy supplier as geopolitical leverage after Thursday’s attack on Ukraine. While soaring prices of European gas and oil breaking through $100 a barrel may suggest that Moscow holds all the cards, its edge may prove fleeting. That’s because, for all that Europe needs Russian petroleum, Russia is far more dependent on European petroleum customers.
Of the roughly 465-billion cubic metres of gas that Europe consumed in 2020, Russian pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) ports provided about 169-billion, more than a third of the total. That sounds like Moscow has the continent over a barrel — but the dependency is even greater in the other direction. More than 70% of Russia’s gas exports go to Europe...