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Will the EU say to Russia: “Three strikes and you’re out”?

Russian invasion of Ukraine

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By my count, this is the third time in the past five years that Russia has cut off oil supplies to a European Union member state to make a political point.

  1. Russia cut off Latvia’s oil supply in 2003. Purely co-incidentally, this happened at the same time as a Russian takeover bid for the oil port of Ventspils.
  2. Russia cut off Lithuania’s oil supply in 2006. Purely co-incidentally, this happened at the same time as the Mazeikiu oil refinery was sold to a Polish firm at the same time as a Russian one.
  3. And Russia cut off Estonia’s oil supply in 2007. Purely co-incidentally, this happened at the same time as a violent dispute over the location of a Soviet war memorial.

And that’s not counting the number of times that Russia has cut off oil or gas supplies to a non-EU member state, affecting onward gas supply to EU member states.

To all those bureaucrats in Brussels who have been burying your heads in the sand, believing that Russia will never use its dominance over the EU’s energy supply as a political weapon – now’s the time to raise your head, and take a long hard look over the fence at your neigbour to the East.


  • What would “out” mean in this context?

    Not really sure to be honest – I thought it’d make an interesting title… 🙂

    I guess the best I can hope for is a strong enough reaction from the EU that Russia realises using energy as a political weapon is doing nobody any favours in the long run.

    Having said that, I have no answers as to how strong a response it would take to persuade Russia to change its approach, nor do I have any particularly good suggestions at the moment as to what action the EU should take.

    A cop out, I know, but one thing I am confident of is that, if the EU continues to follow the same policy, the EU is going to find itself in a very difficult position 10 or 20 years down the line.

  • Yep – when traveling in the Europe I have often met some kind of (unconscious / irrational) fear of Russia. Like: “don’t anger the bear” or “we want to have peaceful relationships with Russia, but you stupid eastern Europeans can’t understand the Russia and only create problems”… I guess Russia knows and exploits it.

    The end of history may have arrived to the Europe – but Russia reminds me more Germany after I WW. Insulted, revengeful, nationalistic/chauvinistic, irrational. Let us all hope that one day we can live next to peaceful and stable neighbor.

    But I really pity Russia and Russians when one far far away day they have to face their past like Germans did 60 years ago.

  • I pity those having such prejudiced and false impressions. Such people tend to not be able to find fault with their own causes.

  • I did not remember off the top of my head the Lithuania instance so the stack up of the three similar cases is interesting. Although, I am not sure what anyone can do about this in the short term since Russia seems to have in abundance what everyone else needs. Countries can complain, but they really don’t have that many choices for suppliers.

  • At the same time Russia is not exporting oil and gas just out of good will. He needs the capital inflow.

    Russia also can complain but he doesn’t have many choices for buyers. Neither are Russian companies using Estonian transit willingly. Their own ports don’t have the capacity to deal with all the (oil) exports. This is the weird part – Estonian companies are loosing just some transit fees but it is Russia who really needs the export.

  • Andy wrote:

    ‘. . . Russia realises using energy as a political weapon is doing nobody any favours in the long run . . .’

    A couple of points. First of all, many of the recent energy showdowns have come about from economics – or rather who’s coining what.

    The Ruminator has a good note on this, suggesting that ‘Russia’s energy policy is not driven by policy but by personal wealth creation’

    See his note about ‘Energy Policy and Swiss Bank Accounts’ at:

    What is also plain wrong is to think that Russia doesn’t care about its role as a supplier.

    There are two new pipeline projects current to assure security of supply: the joint Euro_Russian pipeline under the Baltic and the new alternative to the Druzhba line going to Primorsk.

    What the examples Andy quotes should signal to the EU are the differences between Old Europe and New Europe. The new EU countries appear to be itching to play their NATO Call Out Card in any dispute with Russia.

    The new arrangements will largely bypass Belarus, the Baltic States and Poland. The rest of the EU probably has nothing to worry about, except its own cohesion.

  • Good point.

    Although, during 2003 it was still pretty much a certainty that Latvia would join the EU during the next round of accessions.

  • Hey, you’re both right 🙂

    But I’m still with the Ruminator here, because Russians didn’t like being iced out of the refinery profits.

    Note that they didn’t stop supplies to Lithuania – which LUKOIL did not like losing to the Polish mob – it’s just that the supplies now come less efficiently and more expensively.

    There was a good aside on Neeka’s blog the other day. Quote:

    “An interesting point someone made on Radio Echo of Moscow today: in 1999, there were no Russian billionaires on the Forbes list; in 2007, there are 53.

    Just another way of looking at the years of Yeltsin’s rule vs. the years of Putin’s rule.”

    You can interpret this lots of ways, but there is a tendency to classify everything Russia does as ‘political’ when a lot comes down to money.

    By the way, Andy, I was surprised not to see a note from you about the Forbes list. I was hoping to find who half these billionaire Russians are. I’d wager that they are not primarily political. Just needy or greedy.

  • Much like a good number of the non-Russian business people desiring the Russian market.

  • Russian oil, Russian pipelines. Russia is free to use them as it wants, isn’t it?

    The proper question to ask it quite different, in my opinion: what precisely was the Estonia’s goal of desecrating the Russian war grave in Tallinn? What particular aspects of life in Estonia were supposed to be improved by the grave-digging? Note that the ex-communists now in charge in Estonia did not offer even a fig leaf of some economic necessity…

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