Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Gas Shutdown as War Continues


Ukrainain soldiers waiting to deploy credit: Getty Images

Jocelyn Wang

Over the past few months, Russia has been cutting down its energy to Europe, but as the war in Ukraine enters its 7th month, Russia imposed a complete halt on gas supplies to Europe. While the fighting in Ukraine has fallen out of headlines in the U.S., Europe is still suffering the consequences. At the same time, Ukraine is fighting hard to regain control of their territory. 

Russia claims that sanctions imposed by the West are responsible for the shut down of gas supply. According to CNBC , Gazprom, Russia’s biggest energy corporation, has shut down all gas exports from Nord Stream 1, Europe’s main gas supply pipeline. Gazprom claims there are oil leaks and other damages to the pipeline that are unable to be fixed due to sanctions imposed by the West. However, major officials in Europe and other countries are accusing Russia of weaponizing their oil supply. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that “Problems in pumping arose because of the sanctions imposed against our country and against a number of companies by Western states, including Germany and the U.K.” This article shares that this statement, coming directly from the Kremlin, means that Russia is trying to punish Europe and the West into lifting the  restricting economic sanctions on Russian goods. Furthermore, researchers and analysts have consistently shown that Russia is indeed cutting off energy supplies to inflict economic pain on the EU. 

Unfortunately, Europe has been thrown into an energy crisis. Even since before this indefinite shutdown, Europe’s energy supply was unstable, with Russian oil companies cutting off more and more supply monthly since the start of the war. Now, according to PBS, it is “struggling to contain an energy crisis that could lead to rolling blackouts, shuttered factories and a deep recession”. So far this year, Europe has already seen record inflation rises with gas wholesale prices up 10% in just July, and energy prices driving up 38% throughout the year, even before this cutoff, says BBC News. Now, “energy analysts say Russia’s latest move to suspend gas flows via Europe’s major supply route could exacerbate what was already likely to be an extremely challenging winter period” explains CNBC. The good news is that many European countries have been preparing to cut off their dependency on Russian gas. Germany, for instance, is trying to get more of its gas supply from Norway and the Netherlands, while Italy and Spain are importing more gas from Algeria. Many countries are establishing guidelines to limit energy usage in public spaces, and citizens themselves are cutting down on gas reliance as well. They’re utilizing wood stoves, solar panels, and other means of energy sources. With these new reductions, countries are weaning themselves off of their dependence on Russia to further hinder their efforts to harm the European economy.  

 The war in Ukraine is still being waged, and as of September 2022, Ukraine has recaptured over 6,000 sq km (2,317 sq miles) of territory, forcing Russia back into the Kharkiv region. Russian troops have withdrawn from key Ukrainian towns Izyum and Kupiansk, both of which were major logistical operation centers. At the same time, Ukraine has been continuing their counter-attack in the south, targeting transportation, sabotaging roads, and attempting to force a withdrawal due to resource instability.  However, the Russian-occupied states are holding self-styled referendums in late September. This means that citizens in the four regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk will vote to be annexed with Russia. That way, Russia can rally more troops in “self-defense” and claim that NATO is fighting directly against Russia by providing support and weapons for Ukrainian troops. Russia is trying to ward off NATO protection for Ukraine this way, in hopes that sending missiles directly into “Russian territory” will stop them in fear of starting a World War III. Currently, Russia is gathering more and more people to join their army, using this as an excuse. President Vladmir Putin has ordered partial mobilization, commanding thousands of civilians into the army. The people protesting this in Russia are being arrested and still thrown into the army. Fortunately, most countries are deeming these referendums as illegitimate and illegal, and will be ignoring them if they do pass. 

These updates don’t really affect the United States, as we are far removed from the conflict and on the other side of the world. However, it’s still beneficial to stay up to date with the events that are happening in eastern Europe. Freshman JieAn Liao says, “I don’t think it’s necessary to panic because so far nothing’s been escalating but I think we can try our best to help the Ukrainians. I don’t know if protesting/spreading awareness would help because I’m sure the Russians themselves are probably tired of the war […] as I’m assuming their supplies are dwindling. I guess the most practical thing we can do is if there are refugees who come all the way here, we can do our best to be welcoming to them.” While we can’t directly do anything about the war, we can try to understand the situation and be kind to anyone we meet.