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EU Countries Saying They Have Enough Energy Supplies to Cut Russia Off

  • A handful of EU countries say they have adequate reserves to wean themselves off Russian energy.
  • But a bloc-wide embargo on Russian supplies is a long way off, and must be unanimously backed.
  • Germany, Poland, and Bulgaria have all signaled moves away from reliance on Russia for energy.

As EU countries scramble to wean themselves off Russian energy, a trickle of member states have signaled that they are finding alternative sources of oil, coal, or gas, and won’t need to rely on Russia for long.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 kick-started long-stagnating efforts to reduce the bloc’s Russian energy dependence. But that dependence is profound — Russia supplied 41% of EU natural gas in 2019, the BBC reported.

Poland and Bulgaria issued defiant statements this week after Russia cut off their gas supply. Both countries, while heavily dependent on Russian energy, said they could source enough alternatives on Wednesday.

“Bulgaria will not negotiate under pressure and with its head bowed,” said Bulgarian energy minister Alexander Nikolov, per local news outlet Novinite. “Bulgaria does not give in and is not sold at any price at any trade counterparty.” 

Austria’s government also said Wednesday that it would continue buying Russian energy, but is scrambling for alternative sources to fill its needs, per Reuters.

The next day, the Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that the country has oil for three months, gas for two months, as well as nuclear reserves for two years, according to Czech outlet iROZHLAS

But while it does not buy directly from Russia’s Gazprom, it is heavily dependent on energy sold by Russia through western markets, the outlet reported.

Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were the first EU countries to cut themselves off from Russian gas on April 1, using underground Latvian reserves to satisfy demand, according to Euractiv. Days later, Finland announced it was on track to replace Russian gas sources by fall, Euractive also reported.

On Wednesday, German officials signaled that the country is readying to stop buying Russian oil, as long as it is given enough time to secure alternatives, per The Wall Street Journal.

A total embargo won’t happen overnight

For those countries without immediate alternatives, the transition to is unlikely to happen quickly — Germany, for example, relies on Russia for around a third of its gas, according to Reuters

And while Germany has an outsize influence in the European bloc, all 27 member states must agree to a full ban, and some are dragging their heels.

Hungary, whose authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is broadly loyal to Putin, is one of the countries most dependent on Russian natural gas. Orbán also suggested that he would accede to a key Russian demand of paying Gazprom, Russia’s major gas supplier, in rubles for its supply, Deutsche Welle reported.

And the question remains whether — even with the US and the EU united in their refusal to buy Russian energy in wartime — any ban can be truly effective.

A report released Wednesday by Brussels-based economic think tank Breugel said it won’t be.

So far, the group wrote, higher prices caused by the change in demand from Europe have more than compensated for Russia’s losses. 

“Only an immediate and full embargo would drastically cut Putin’s revenues,” the group wrote. This, it said, is unlikely given that major economies like China show no sign of participating. 

The group instead recommended energy import tariffs that can be adjusted to exert economic pressure on Russia.

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