Power battle between the two countries could take an interesting turn if Russia retaliates against the US new sanctions that are hurting its energy business. While Russia has so far reacted to the new sanctions by drastically cutting down diplomatic and technical staff from US on Russian soil, it can do a long-lasting damage, especially in hurting US’s ties with its traditional allies in Europe.
For Russia, energy is an instrument of geopolitical power. It has been a major supplier of oil and gas to many European countries, and by exerting pressure over these countries it aims to gather support against the recent US sanctions against it.
These four maps published by Business Insider show how.
The first in the series is a map of Europe showing the energy import levels of countries. As it is evident from the map, 53% of the energy consumed by the European Union is imported. This is higher than most other regions of the world, including North America and East and South Asia. 90% of EU’s crude oil requirements and 66% of its natural gas requirements get fulfilled through imports. More than 30% of the energy consumed by most European countries is imported.
Russia is the major provider of energy with approximately 40% of the supply coming from there. Norway provides about 35% of the imports. Germany, the largest economy in the EU is a major importer of energy with more than 60% of its consumption requirements getting met through imports. France imports about 45%.
The second map shows the quantum of natural gas imported from Russia. Major importers are East European nations such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria etc., who may have had old trade ties with the erstwhile USSR. While Finland stands out as one of the major importers from Western Europe, what is interesting is that traditional NATO powerhouses Germany and Turkey also show a healthy gas import from Russia. In fact Russia makes up for 57% of natural gas supplied to Germany. The figure is 62% for Czech Republic and 53% for Poland.
The third map shows the amount of oil imported from Russia in 2015. Russia provides for 90% of the oil used in Poland, 70% of the oil and natural gas used in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Finland and 56% of the oil imported by Czech Republic. And once again, the dependency of Germany can be seen prominently. As per Eurostat data, 35% of its crude oil import needs are met from Russia.
The fourth map shows major gas pipelines between Russia and Germany. Russia is sure to gain more strength with the construction of Northern Lights and Yamal-Europe Pipeline System (Nord Stream) 2, a pipeline that would run through the Baltic Sea by passing Ukraine.
The above map clearly indicates that the construction of the pipeline will help Russia strengthen its position in the power battle. The pipeline would benefit Russia by providing it more leverage over Ukraine. As a threat to not supporting it over US, it could withhold shipments of natural gas to Ukraine without bothering Germany. This in turn could lead to a stronger German-Russian alignment, which could be another cause of concern for US.
On the contrary, bullish behavior on the part of Russia with respect to supply of energy resources to non-NATO countries may encourage them to join the treaty of alliance. Such alliance will in a way make US’ position stronger.
So to say, since the ground is swampy, both countries need to think twice before taking the next step.