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George Soros says Russia is blackmailing Europe with gas


Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the ceremony honoring Paralympians and Olympians at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia. April 26, 2022. 

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

DAVOS, Switzerland — Russian President Vladimir PutinGeorge Soros, billionaire investor, says that the bargaining power of ‘not as strong as it seems’ and Europe is able to leverage against him.

In a letter to Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Soros said Putin was “obviously blackmailing Europe” by threatening to — or actually — withholdinging gas supplies.

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That’s exactly what he did last year. He stored gas rather than shipping gas to Europe. Soros’s Monday letter stated that this created a crisis, increased prices, and made him lots of money. However, his bargaining power isn’t as good as he claims.

CNBC Wednesday reached Russian officials for comment but were unable to reach them immediately.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Finland recently, saying that the country was not paying for it with rubles. The move came after Helsinki announced its intentions to join NATO — the defense alliance that Putin opposes.

Bulgaria and Poland also stopped receiving Russian gas suppliesA few weeks back. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow announced that “unfriendly” nations would have to pay for Russian gas in rubles — a policy that allows the Kremlin to prop up its own currency.

Soros however, says that European nations have the ability to leverage themselves against Putin.

George Soros is a US investor from Hungary who also acts as philanthropist.

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The EU includes 27 members countries and receives around 40% of its natural gaz supplies from Russia. It makes it hard for them to discontinue buying this gas overnight.

Soros says that the EU is a key market for Putin and the Kremlin.

It is expected that the Russian storage capacity will reach its maximum by July. Europe is his main market. To supply Europe, he will have to shut down Siberia’s wells. There are approximately 12,000 of these wells. They take time to close them and they can be difficult to reopen due to the age of their equipment,” Soros stated in the letter.

He stated that Europe should make urgent preparations to use its bargaining ability. “Without this, the sudden pain of a stoppage would prove politically extremely difficult to bear,” he stated. To ensure the gas price doesn’t fall, Europe should impose a heavy tax on imports of gasoline.

Leon Izbicki is an associate with Energy Aspects. He agrees that Russia has a lot of gas stored.

Izbicki shared via email that Russia went into the winter with record-breaking stock of about 72.6 billion cubic meters. He also aims to reach a winter storage goal of 72.7 trillion cubic meters. While we are not able to see the Russian underground storage, it appears plausible that Russia may reach this goal this summer.

He said that Russia is not flexible in gas storage, and that it does not have the infrastructure to transport gas from Europe to Asia.

In the meantime, European countries are looking for other alternatives to Russian natural gas. since the invasionUkraine The EU and the United States, for instance, signed a deal in MarchTo ensure that the region receives at least 15 million cubic meters of more liquefied natural gases (LNG), this year.

This, coupled with the recent cuts in supply to Poland, Bulgaria and Finland — along with international sanctions — means that Russia is inevitably already selling less gas to Europe.

Izbicki explained that “we expect gas flows into Europe to be at approximately 98 billion cubic metres this year, compared to the 141 billion cubicmeters last year.”