Impossible for Europe to stop buying Russian gas, says Putin

Moscow meets around 30 per cent of the continent’s natural gas needs

 

Russian president Vladimir Putin said today it would not be possible for Europe, which is trying to cut its reliance on Russian energy, to completely stop buying Russian gas.

Mr Putin also said that the transit via Ukraine is the most dangerous element in Europe’s gas supply system, and that he was hopeful a deal could be reached with Ukraine on gas supplies.

Russia meets around 30 per cent of Europe’s natural gas needs. Moscow’s actions in Ukraine have spurred attempts by the continent to reduce its dependency on oil and gas supplies from the former Cold War foe. “Of course, everyone is taking care about supply diversification.

There, in Europe, they talk about increasing independence from the Russian supplier,” said Mr Putin. “It’s just like we begin to talk and take action towards independence from our consumers,” he added. Russia has made efforts to forge closer ties with Asia.

The European Union told Mr Putin it is willing to hold talks with Moscow and Kiev on gas security as the bloc scrambles to defuse a deep political crisis over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, replying to a letter Putin sent last week to 18 EU countries, accepted Putin’s proposal for three-way talks. “The European Union agrees on your proposal for consultations with the Russian Federation and Ukraine with regard to security of gas supply and transit,” Mr Barroso said in his reply, released by the European Commission today.

Reuters calculations suggest Europe’s efforts could slash imports from Russia by around 45 billion cubic metres (bcm) by 2020, worth $18 billion a year, equivalent to a quarter of what Russia currently supplies. “We sell gas in European countries which have around 30-35 percent of their gas balance covered by supplies from Russia. Can they stop buying Russian gas? In my opinion it is impossible,” he said during an hours-long televised question and answer session.