Economic Statecraft
'Geopolitics of Chaos' in the Energy Sector
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On October 10, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion titled “Explosions at Nord Streams: The Geopolitics of Interrupted Energy Ties”, dedicated to the state of gas cooperation between Russia and other countries. The moderator was Ivan Timofeev, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Aleksey Grivach, Deputy General Director for Gas Problems of the National Energy Security Fund, raised the question of whether the European gas market exists at all, with the dynamics that have been observed recently. He noted that until recently, relations between Russia and Europe in the gas sector were a vivid example of interdependence, an important aspect of which was mutual trust. This system not only served as a solid basis for bilateral trade, but also a constraint on unfriendly steps. “Now it is, if not destroyed, then certainly staggering, which opens the way for further escalation not only in the energy sector, but also in the field of strategic security,” the expert admitted. Speaking about the specifics of the current situation, he also pointed out that now, thanks to the growing share of renewable energy in the European energy balance, Europe's energy depends on the weather like never before, and the planning horizon has become unusually short.

Evgeny Tipailov, Executive Director of the Institute for Interdependence Studies, outlined a number of factors and patterns that affect energy relations between Russia and Europe in the short and medium term. The first of these he called the "chaotisation of order". The ‘business as usual’ formula has ended, and the market is now waiting for the degradation of the legal landscape, the relativisation of contractual obligations, the growth of government interference, the erosion of the financial infrastructure and the zeroing of trust. The second factor is “arrhythmia in the energy markets”, a parallel acceleration and deceleration of a number of market processes. The third factor is the Americanisation of European energy policy, and the growth of American intervention. The fourth factor is the turn of Russian energy diplomacy to the East. The fifth factor is “energy homeostasis”, the desire of both sides, against the backdrop of energy hunger in Europe, to balance their position. The sixth factor is the reconfiguration of interdependence. For Russia, the key task should be to create a system that is as balanced as possible in terms of risks. Finally, the seventh factor is the “swan song of the dying world order”, a high probability of unpredictable events that could radically affect the commodity market and complicate forecasting.

Alexey Gromov, Chief Energy Director of the Institute of Energy and Finance, called the Nord Stream sabotage a continuation of the “geopolitics of chaos” and an attempt to destroy the pipeline infrastructure as a field of opportunity for further cooperation. Analysing the prospects for Europe, he noted that it has every chance of persisting through the current heating period, although without much comfort. However, the question is what will happen next, given that European storage facilities were filled in the first half of this year mainly with Russian gas. It is not clear how the European Union will fill them next year without Nord Stream. It is also not clear how serious the risk of a complete cessation of Russian supplies is. However, in any case, Europe will have to take serious measures to save gas, and the winter of 2023-2024 will probably be much worse than this winter. As a result, the European economy will face a complete reconfiguration, with the washing out of gas-intensive industries.