Nord Stream poker is perfect for Putin. It can fuel fears of a lack of gas and unsettle EU populations. Solidarity with Ukraine should be weakened. Voices in Europe are also fueled, according to which the sanctions would harm the EU itself more than Russia.

waiting for gas There were great fears that the Russian state-owned company Gazprom would not resume gas supplies after maintenance work on Nord Stream 1 was completed. Things turned out differently – even if it is not yet clear how much of the transport capacity will actually be used in the next few weeks.

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Many European countries are dangerously dependent on Russian gas – above all Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. These countries are held hostage by the Russian leadership, which may well be willing to shut off gas supplies altogether. For a long time, the argument was that Russia urgently needed the income from gas exports. In fact, gas export revenues are very important to the Russian state budget, albeit less than oil export revenues.

Gerhard Mangott is a professor of political science with a special focus on international relations and security in the post-Soviet space. He teaches at the Institute for Political Science in Innsbruck and is a lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna

However, because oil prices are currently very high, Russia generates a lot of foreign exchange income from the oil business. A temporary waiver of gas revenue would therefore be possible. Above all, however, Putin considers his geopolitical goals in Ukraine and Europe much more important than the costs of sanctions or counter-sanctions.

Even without a complete halt to all gas supplies, the Russian leadership is already reaping significant benefits. The fear of a lack of gas supply in the coming winter unsettles the populations of the EU countries. Fear about energy prices that many can no longer afford; fear of a shortage of gas in the coming winter; Fear of unemployment when industries have to close because they are no longer supplied with energy.

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This fear is the goal of Putin’s political calculus. The higher gas prices generated by the scarcity of gas supplies and the resulting sharp rise in prices, which many segments of the population cannot or only with difficulty bear, are intended to promote social instability. Political instability is supposed to emerge from the social unrest. Governments in the EU should come under pressure to explain and justify themselves to a growing number of the population.

You will have to argue why the sanctions against Russia were necessary and indispensable, despite the damage they are causing to the EU itself. Solidarity with Ukraine should be weakened. The Russian leadership expects “Freezing for Ukraine – no thanks” as a strong opinion in Europe in the coming winter. Such a mood would intensify the already observable war fatigue among a minority of the population. Many no longer want to see pictures of this war, no murdered civilians, no destroyed infrastructure and no fallen soldiers.

The Russian leadership is also fanning the voices in Europe that the sanctions would harm the EU itself more than Russia. This is objectively not correct; but it can be observed how right-wing populist actors in some EU countries take up this slogan and direct it against the government.

Of course, it is true that the EU is also affected by its own sanctions – due to falling exports to Russia, supply shortages and increased prices. That must have been clear to the EU governments from the start. Sanctions against an economy as large as Russia’s must be tough sanctions. So hard that they also hit the sanction issuer. In many, but not all, EU member states, there has been a lack of open, honest communication in this regard. Too often, the responsibility for inflation has been shifted to “the war” in the abstract – indirectly, that is, to Russia, which started this criminal campaign. It remains to be seen whether this lack of honesty has caused political damage or whether the negative mood in growing parts of the population can still be captured.

So Putin’s calculus is clear – he is concerned with dividing European societies, reducing support for those in government and thus paralyzing the EU’s Ukraine policy.