Europe always had a long and bumpy relationship with Russia, mainly due to its dependence on Russian gas, which created a lot of disturbance from the European perspective. Although Europe seems to decrease its dependence on Russia, it keeps growing. State-owned Gazprom’s statistics show that Russia has been a great exporter to Europe and Turkey. The exports have been significantly increasing; 178.3 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2016, 192.2 ccm in 2017, and 200.8 in 2018. Gazprom exported 162.39 bcm to Western Europe, and the largest importers were Germany with 58.5 bcm, Turkey with 23.96, Italy with 22.77 bcm, the United Kingdom with 14.26 and France with 12.92 bcm.
This consistent growth in the trends might seem surprising when the crises and the sanction between the EU and Russia. When Russia illegally invaded Crimea, which caused anxiety in the region that could disrupt receiving a gas supply. This event caused the European Commission to call on the industry to multiply the sources, suppliers, and routes. Still, Russia remains the dominant supplier within the region. It could be explained that the Russian gas supply had little to do with politics, but due to the commercial aspect.
At the same time, as Marco Siddi wrote, the EU-Russia gas relationship has been caused more predictable by the resolution of commercial disputes, especially the European Commission’s antitrust investigation against Gazprom and Russia’s complaints at the World Trade Organization against some key market regulations. Despite these commercial disputes, Western Europe seems to be continuing to import Russian gas. The stable growing trend is the main reason for increasing projects on implementing new infrastructure for gas exportation to Europe.
Still, these new projects are causing debates within the EU. Nord Stream 2 Project caused many heated arguments on how “anti-European” and “anti-Ukrainian” it was. European Commission’s concern was that the project would increase Germany’s dependence on Russia and would economically punish Ukraine. Since the energy independency was already an issue in Europe, this project pointed out the difference between the interest of Germany and Europe. Even the US has intervened, threatening to sanction European companies that are involved in this project while advocating their LNG as an alternative.
The construction of Nord Stream 2 is still ongoing and expected to complete. After its completion, new tensions are scheduled due to transition routes. Nonetheless, tensions can be altered if Russia, Ukraine, and Europe agree on keeping Ukrainian pipelines active rather than keeping Ukraine out of the picture as it has done in the Nord Strem 2 project.