If the EU imposes sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine, Russian gas supplies should not be part of that. This is what Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said in an interview with Die Presse on Sunday. Nor does he want the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to fall under sanctions.
The impending Russian invasion of Ukraine has dominated the international political agenda for weeks. However, it is not clear whether and how Russia will launch an attack, and the US and EU do not seem to agree on what sanctions they should impose in the event of an incursion against Russia.
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European foreign ministers, who are meeting in Brussels, will discuss the issue again on Monday. So if it depends on Austria, which has traditionally pursued good relations with Russia, gas should be outside the scope of sanctions. In Europe, we are partly dependent on Russia for our energy. “If we still want heating and electricity, we won’t be able to change that in a jiffy,” Minister Schallenberg said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the news agency learn Bloomberg That the United States is in talks with Qatar about the possibility of supplying liquefied natural gas to Europe, if the Russian invasion of Ukraine leads to a shortage of gas. There are fears that European sanctions may encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn the gas tap further to Europe. Russian gas makes up more than 40 percent of European supplies.
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In any case, Russia can expect harsh economic and financial sanctions if it violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Schallenberg said. “In the event of an escalation, the response will be clear, unambiguous, and swift,” he adds. It is not clear what sanctions the EU intends to impose, but Schallenberg does not exclude the possibility of isolating Russia from the international payment system SWIFT.
The fact that Austrian oil and gas company OMV is co-investing in Nord Stream 2 may contribute to Schallenberg’s reluctance to include gas in the new European sanctions. There is also a major center for the distribution of Russian gas to Europe near Vienna.