how Russia pushes Europeans into armed struggle by demanding payment for gas in rubles

Rubles, instead of euros or dollars. Vladimir Putin wants to invoice Gazprom’s Russian gas with the currency of his country, and no longer with European or American currencies. The Russian president asked the Russian Central Bank and the company to present him with a report on the matter on Thursday, March 31, with a double objective in mind: to force companies to buy rubles on international markets, in order to raise their course, and demonstrate their political power in the face of European sanctions. “If you want gasoline, look for rubles”, summarized (in Russian) Vyacheslav Volodin, the president of the Duma.

Very concretely, this mandate means that European countries must, according to him, buy Russian currency from banks. saved from their own sanctions, which will serve as exchange banks. Certainly, “the cost of transactions will be higher”points out Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz, but the message is above all political: “This coup by Vladimir Putin would allow him to show that the ruble is still a convertible currency.” Never short of ideas, Viatcheslav Volodin would like to apply this logic to other products (fertilizers, cereals, coal, metals, wood, etc.). And the Kremlin did not reject these options.

To do this, in theory, trade agreements would have to be renegotiated. “Our contracts provide for the payment of gas in euros. There is no clause that allows the seller to change currency”recently insisted Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, president of Engie, in franceinfo. “I understand this group is stressed right now.comments Thierry Bros, energy specialist and professor at Sciences Po. The companies, within the framework of their licences, have the obligation to be able to supply gas. Same reactions from the Italian Eni or the Austrian OMV. But the legality of this measure, however, could remain in the background, behind the will of Moscow and the lack of alternatives.

So politics took over. And the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States) seem determined to confront each other. “All ministers I agree that this is a unilateral and clear breach of existing contracts.”German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday. European companies would “could negotiate this request with Gazprom, for example, asking for a halved price”believes Thierry Bros.

To date, the EU and the G7 have ruled out any embargo on this gas, since the dependence on Europe is great. The paradox is striking today. Although the Russian economy has been stifled by sanctions since the start of the war, imports of its gas have increased throughout the period, and this “to accumulate stock”explains Ludovic Subran, economist at Allianz, contacted by franceinfo.

“Europe is now paying $750 million a day.”

Ludovic Subran, economist

in france info

Therefore, Ukraine accuses its Western partners of financing the war led by Vladimir Putin. During a speech by videoconference before the Norwegian Parliament, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged the Nordic country to produce more natural gas, in order to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia.

This increase in orders is due in part to fears about future gas supplies and poorly adjusted orders before the war. But the phenomenon is also cyclical, because the gas industry traditionally starts its re-storage in the spring, in order to prepare for the following winter. “After going down to 28%, the storage level is currently going up, with the goal of reaching 80%, even 90%, if possible”Complete Thierry Bros.

Time is running out before finding alternative solutions. “About 75% of Russian gas supplies are replaceable for other more expensive supplies”, explains Thierry Bros. But finally, a quarter of the imported Russian gas cannot be replaced, according to the expert’s estimates, that is, 10% of the total European demand. In addition, the Energy Regulation Commission already recommends that the French save energy, ahead of next winter.

The Kremlin, for its part, has already warned that Russia “will not provide free gasoline” and that the period is not propitious for anypan-european charity”.

“Russia must find a way to ensure that payments are made and that [l’exigence de paiement en roubles] does not become an excuse for Europe not to pay”.

Ludovic Subran, economist

in franceinfo

By refusing to collect payments in euros or dollars, and deciding to cut the floodgates, he would also risk exposing himself to legal action before the Stockholm Arbitration Court, which settles international trade disputes. Damages can then run into the hundreds of billions of dollars., explains Thierry Bros.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin announced that this measure would be implemented gradually, without setting an actual date. During a conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Vladimir Putin wanted to forgive the interlocutor and his great client. “Payment for Russian gas in rubles must not impair European customer contractsassured the Russian autocrat.

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