There is no doubt - speaking out with demands that the Ukrainian side will almost certainly not fulfill, the leadership of the domestic gas giant has coordinated its actions at the highest level. No wonder, because it seems to be purely economic the question in this case has, first of all, political value. Moreover, going far beyond the framework of relations between Moscow and Kiev itself. Why did this turn of events become possible right now, what would be its consequences and why should Russia not miss the unique moment that presented itself to it?
It would seem that until recently, reassuringly conciliatory statements about the readiness to continue the transit were heard even from the Kremlin. In any case, just such an idea was voiced just a few days ago by presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on the air. Not forgetting, however, at the same time mention the need to stop extortion attempts from the Ukrainian side. But this sounded like a backdrop for general peace-loving appeals. And now, Gazprom, with reference to its own head, Alexei Miller, states that any negotiations are possible only with the complete and final refusal of Naftogaz to make any and all material claims. This is done exactly after the words of the executive director of Naftogaz NAK about filing a new, counterclaim against Gazprom for another $ 12 billion to the Stockholm arbitration. The general director of the Ukrainian company, Andrei Kobolev, believes that Russia "owes" his enterprise a total of 22 billion dollars, which, without blushing, is broadcast publicly. Based on this, it turns out that in Moscow, in order to continue transporting "blue fuel" through Ukraine, conditions are set that are obviously impossible to fulfill ... Therefore, no one is going to implement it from January 1 of next year.
At the same time, Gazprom also nods to Germany: they say that they are aware of the situation there. This is a clear indication that Europe has finally decided to stop the useless and unpromising struggle for Ukrainian transit and switch to solving its own energy issues. Denmark, for so long and stubbornly gaining value by deterring the construction of the Nord Stream 2, has long been an importer of gas, and, according to available information, intends to receive it precisely from the pipeline, the construction of which it put obstacles. The production of “blue fuel” for a long time, which supplied Norway with the Old World, also faces certain problems. Old, cheap to develop fields are rapidly depleted, and the profitability of new ones is a big question. The hopes for shale gas did not come true. So, in the UK on November 2, a decision was made to completely ban its production at the fields of Lancashire. The reason was a series of tremors, which are most likely caused by fracking, that is, hydraulic fracturing - traditional Technology for the production of shale gas. Thus, under the ban were energy reserves, estimated at almost 90 trillion cubic meters. And they urgently need to look for a replacement.
The gas needs of Europe are growing every day. Refusal of coal TPPs and curtailment of the NPP program, striving for maximum environmental cleanliness of heat and electric energy production - the only alternative here is “blue fuel”. According to some estimates, the gas deficit of the Old World in the near future can reach from 50 to 300 billion cubic meters per year. Today, only pipeline export from Russia can cover the needs of such a volume. And Ukraine ... It is very characteristic that Denmark finally decided on the permission to lay Nord Stream-2 just a couple of days after the next unsuccessful negotiations between Naftogaz and Gazprom, after which the European Commissioner Marosh Shefchovich could only shrug . Having believed in his own status as a kind of “sacred cow” for the European Union, Kiev went too far in its insolence and stubbornness, too convincingly demonstrated to its “Western partners” absolute incompetence and utter insecurity. However, there is one more point.
The position of the United States
Speaking not so long ago on the sidelines of the energy forum of Central and Eastern Europe to his Baltic colleagues, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry made a rather strange statement. It turns out that in 2018, deliveries of American LNG "helped Europe save $ 8 billion in energy resources." How could a more expensive transatlantic gas serve as an “economy” - the question, of course, is interesting. Obviously, Mr. Perry is thus hinting at the almost doubled share of his country in Europe’s export market in recent years. Assuming that it was precisely this “invaluable contribution” that led to a slight decrease in the prices of “blue fuel”. The moment is quite controversial, but this is not the main thing. Imbued with the idea of an “elder brother”, Lithuanian Energy Minister Жygimantas Vaiciunas, speaking after Perry, proclaimed the following thesis: “The larger the USA in Europe, the larger the USA in European energy, the stronger we are!” Well, if this is the position of Vilnius, then it is unlikely to be shared in Berlin or Paris. No matter how much Washington talks about the "dependence" of these capitals on Moscow due to the "lack of diversification of energy supplies," they know too well what real dependence is on Washington.
The transition of the Old World to American LNG would cause, in addition to a lot of problems of a purely economic and technical nature, serious geopolitical cataclysms within the EU. Today, the terminals necessary for its reception are located mainly in the countries of Southern and North-Western Europe. Now Poland and the Baltic countries are moving very intensively in this direction, ready to lay their bones in order to only become the “gateway” to the European Union for liquefied gas from the United States. Naturally, neither Germany, nor Austria, is completely satisfied with such a “shift of the center of gravity” on the continent. By the way, as well as the excessive “more US in European energy” ... They understand very well what the presence of such a trump card in the hands of “partners” with which the European Union has recently teetered on the brink of a full-blown “trade war” . This is perfectly evidenced even by the fact that, despite Washington’s absolutely titanic efforts to completely block the construction of Nord Stream-2, he failed. Well, yes, shit on the little things. Okay, not by the little things ... But still, the maximum that the United States managed to achieve was to create a very nervous atmosphere in Europe before the start of the current heating season. Not too impressive result. On the other hand, stubbornly and consistently resisting the pressure of the Americans, the Europeans clearly made it clear in whose favor they make a choice.
As for Ukraine, here, most likely, the United States will be forced to retreat. Attempts by the same Rick Perry to take American GTS “unbridgeable” under American control have already resulted in a rather unpleasant scandal on the Washington political Olympus. And if you take into account that today any mention of everything related to Ukraine and the local affairs is perceived in the USA in an extremely negative light and context, they could very well “wash their hands”, even for a while. The United States simply does not have direct levers to force Moscow to continue an extremely disadvantageous transit for itself, and all attempts to influence the process by indirect methods (like the war with Nord Stream-2), in fact, failed. Even the sanctions planned in Congress against European pipe-laying companies will not yield anything. And, in the end, why fight for something? American LNG, through Polish intermediaries, will be buying Kiev anyway, as sweetheart. And he will continue his anti-Russian activities as much as they wish in Washington. Well, pipes and compressor stations will turn into scrap metal, well, the country will accelerate its movement back to the Stone Age ... Who cares in the USA? The Americans will continue to fight Russian energy exports, not by those or other means. On Ukrainian transit, the light did not exactly match for them.
A historical moment for Russia?
It seems that Kiev is fully aware of this and is already preparing for the worst (and perhaps the only possible) scenario. Not without reason, the head of the Ministry of Energy there, Alexei Orzhel, recently declared "readiness to stop the transportation of Russian gas." Naturally, officials at all levels are trying to reassure compatriots: “It's okay! We are wintered! "Underground storages are filled" record-breaking ", the reverse will be, foreign countries will help us!" I must say that the "cold weather" is really unlikely to threaten the "unfathomable". At least somehow they were preparing for the winter there ... True, the preparation in some ways looks rather strange. For example, Ukraine in September this year reduced its own gas production to less than 55 million cubic meters per day, which is an anti-record for the last three years. However, the main problems lie elsewhere. For the population - in the absolutely inevitable instant rise in price of public utilities, the price of which has already become unreasonable in recent years for the vast majority of the country's inhabitants. Today, the debts of the population, and, accordingly, of heat-generating companies, have reached such disastrous proportions that it may well be on the agenda to disconnect entire cities, and even regions, from heating and gas supply. But then shortly before the “ice age” ... However, the state as a whole expects much more tangible consequences.
The transit of Russian gas remained, in fact, the last stable source of currency income for a crumbling country, bringing it $ 3 billion annually. And this is not all ... In the first half of this year alone, Naftogaz paid about 60 billion hryvnias of taxes to the treasury, which amounted to about 16% of budget revenues for this period. With the cessation of transit, the dilapidation, and the destruction of the gas transportation system, of course, none of this will happen. What awaits the Ukrainian economy, which is already in deep stagnation? I don’t know, but meanwhile, the country's Prime Minister Alexei Goncharuk promises his fellow citizens an “economic leap” in 2021! In truth, if decency had not restrained me, I would have put forward an assumption about where exactly and with what concrete result this country will “jump”. Especially, given the fact that by the fall of 2021 both the Nord Stream-2 and the Turkish Stream will definitely be put into operation. That is, even transit will not be discussed. Under no conditions. Oh yes! After all, there are still tens of billions of dollars seized from Gazprom! Yeah ... And the ears of the dead donkey and the key to the apartment where the money is. Instead of agreeing to any offers of Moscow, seizing a ghostly chance to conclude an agreement on gas transportation for any extended period, Kiev continues to chase mirages selflessly.
Well, Russia has a wonderful chance to get rid of an acute headache, the source of which, alas, has become neighboring for her and once even somewhere fraternal Ukraine. And without any military measures. Deprived of the last "backups" in the form of "transit" billions and the help of Europe, which will deeply spit on everything that happens in the "unbroken" area from the moment the gas valve is completely closed, this "state" will simply fall apart by itself. The main thing here is not to give up the slack at the last moment, not to succumb to the pressure of the West, which will undoubtedly follow. As well as not getting pissed off, not following the broad Russian nature and not continuing to supply gas after the end of the contract, hoping that subsequently prudent “non-brothers” would appreciate it. Do not appreciate. In any case, those on whom, alas, today the adoption of real political decisions in Kiev depends. Any manifestation of generosity there will be perceived solely as weakness, and then new zeros will certainly be added to the harsh lawsuits that Naftogaz continues to fill up with Stockholm. This is at least. The Ukrainian authorities themselves did everything in order to drive the situation into a dead end. They themselves must contrive to find a way out of it. As the practice of "peaceful settlement" in the Donbass shows, the current leadership of the "non-fallow", if it differs in anything from the previous one, is only more cunning, resourceful and prone to lies. On January 1, 2020, Russia will have a chance to teach her a wonderful lesson. The main thing is not to miss it.