Will Russia’s cutoff backfire?
While gas supply disruptions will undoubtedly inflict pain on European consumers, they also are hard on Russia, which badly needs the money. Currently, Putin is ordering “unfriendly” countries to pay for Russian energy in rubles to boost Russia’s currency, which has lost value under the weight of economic sanctions. Poland and Bulgaria had refused to pay in rubles.
Cutting off gas supplies in February would have been expensive for Russia and surely would have inspired even more backlash in Europe. By wielding natural gas as a weapon when the weather is mild, Russia can flex its petro-muscles without being too aggressive or losing too much money. The key question now is whether Europe needs Russian gas more than Russia needs revenue from European sales.