Is Europe vulnerable to Russian gas cuts?

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12 March 2014

The EU relies heavily on imports to meet its demand for natural gas. Nearly 23% of the gas burned by the EU member states is produced in Russian gas fields. Ukraine remains one of the main supply routes for Russian gas flowing into Europe. Consequently, mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine concerning the Crimean Peninsula brought back memories of past gas supply disruptions, most notably of 2009. The question today is whether the EU in 2014 is equally vulnerable to potential (forced or voluntary) cuts in Russian gas supplies as it was five years ago.

In this commentary, Arno Behrens and Julian Wieczorkiewicz look into two different scenarios. First, could Europe sustain longer cuts in gas supplies from Russia? And second, what impact would disruptions of Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine have on the EU? Essentially the authors argue that Russia is highly dependent on gas exports to Europe, while Europe could resort to alternatives to Russian gas. In addition, Europe is much better prepared for potential short-term supply disruptions than it was five years ago.

Arno Behrens is Head of Energy and Research Fellow at CEPS. Julian Wieczorkiewicz is a Research Assistant in the Energy and Climate Change research unit at CEPS.