Russia’s gas war against Europe, déjà-vu.... writes H.E. Mykola Tochytskyi

The month of March began with a feeling of déjà-vu for Ukrainians. Ten years ago the Russian state controlled instrument, Gazprom, decided to punish us for something that went beyond its control (in this case – even our imagination) by arbitrarily cutting off gas supplies, writes Ambassador Mykola Tochytskyi, Head of Mission of Ukraine to the EU.

Of course, autocratic regimes are notorious for rattling their old sabres, but unfortunately such behaviour has now come to be expected from such people. 

Oil and Gas supply has now become a weapon to be used in hybrid warfare against the West in general, and Ukraine in particular. Such tactics, of course, are often employed in the days leading up to election campaigns. 

In a nutshell, the story of March 1st 2018 is short: invoice issued – invoice paid – gas not delivered.

Gazprom has failed to respect its contract with Naftogaz: it has failed to honour its legal obligations under the Stockholm arbitration, and it has even failed to honour its own invoices.

Naftogaz Pays Back Usd 1 45 Bln To Gazprom

It has been a long time since Naftogaz has had the experience whereby prepaid gas has not been supplied. I myself am sure that no other European company has ever had to endure such an experience. 

However, on a positive note, the way in which the EU and Ukraine have managed the threat to the security of gas supply has proven the efficiency of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in protecting mutual interests.

In a show of defiance, and of solidarity, by the concerted efforts of the Ukrainian people by closing public institutions, including schools and kindergartens, Ukrainians reduced gas consumption by 14%. 

Although we Ukrainians may have gained the moral high ground in the economic vs political battle, I must ask myself if further business with Russia justifies our children not going to schools?

Hence my personal gratitude goes to our Polish partners who managed to meet the deficit in supply, and in supporting the stable operation of the GTS.

To conclude:

  • The Gazprom monopoly appears too strong for the EU
  • It is clearly naïve to believe that Gazprom will not abuse its dominant position in the future
  • Russian reassurances may come, but will not always be fulfilled
  • For the Kremlin, political objectives will always prevail over legal obligations
  • Further reform and liberalisation of the gas market and flows is the only remedy to such a dominant position
  • Reinforcing this monopoly by constructing additional pipelines will have absolutely no economic advantages, but clear political goals

The EU and Ukraine learned their lessons from January 2009, and should draw the correct conclusions from 1 March 2018 as well.

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Mykola Tochytskyi Tochytskyi

Mykola Tochytskyi Tochytskyi

His Excellency Mr. Mykola Tochytskyi, is Head of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU.

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