Russia restarts gas shipments through a key pipeline to Germany
By Melissa Eddy and Marc Santora
Russia resumed flows of natural gas to Germany early Thursday, easing fears in Europe that a key pipeline would become the latest target in the escalating confrontation between Moscow and the West as the war in Ukraine stretches into its fifth month.
A steady stream of weapons from Western allies that are being used by Ukraine to increasingly devastating effect against Russian forces had raised the suspense around whether Moscow would resume gas deliveries after a 10-day hiatus for annual maintenance. The tensions served as a stark reminder of how dangerously dependent Germany — Europe’s largest economy — and several of its neighbors remain on energy from Russia.
The Ukrainian military said on Thursday that over the past 24 hours it had conducted 10 strikes across southern Ukraine using attack helicopters and fighter jets, targeting five Russian strongholds. They also targeted six Russian ammunition depots and several command posts with missile and artillery strikes against more than 200 Russian targets.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that it would send Ukraine four more advanced multiple-rocket launch vehicles, known as HIMARS, and senior defense officials acknowledged that they were considering sending Ukraine new fighter jets.
Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, declined to speculate on what type of aircraft might be transferred, but he said that discussions were ongoing about how to reinforce Ukraine’s fleet.
“It’ll be something non-Russian, I can probably tell you that,” Brown said during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “But I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be.”
At that same forum, William J. Burns, the CIA director, said that President Vladimir Putin of Russia had made a fundamental miscalculation.
“He insists that Ukraine is not a real country, but real countries fight back,” Burns said.
But he said the Russian leader believed that America has a short attention span and that with time, Western resolve will fade.
Despite Thursday’s resumption of gas flow, European Union leaders believe that Putin will continue to exploit bloc members’ dependence on Russian fossil fuels as a way to weaken the countries’ economies and fracture the alliance.
“Russia is blackmailing us,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, as she introduced the plan to reduce gas consumption. “Russia is using energy as a weapon.”
The bloc is urging member nations to immediately begin cutting their use of natural gas to prepare for an uncertain and possibly unsteady supply before the winter.
In Germany alone, half of all homes are heated with gas, and the fuel is a crucial element to keeping the country’s important chemical, steel making and auto industries running. Even before the July 11 shutdown of Nord Stream 1, the government in Berlin had declared a “gas crisis” and began enacting measures to reduce gas consumption, such as ordering the resumption of coal-fired power plants to replace those running on gas.
In the weeks leading up to the shutdown, Gazprom had already reduced flows through the pipeline to 40% of its capacity.
The head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Müller, said that flows had returned to that level early Thursday — exceeding the amount that Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy monopoly, had told operators would be delivered.
“Unfortunately, the political uncertainty and the 60% cut from mid-June remain,” Müller said.