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Foreign Policy

Germany’s Scholz shoots down Russia’s excuse for slashing gas flows

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday accused Russia of deliberately reducing gas flows to Europe and shot down Moscow’s argument that sanctions were preventing the delivery of a massive turbine required for pumping gas.

During a visit to engineering company Siemens Energy in Mülheim an der Ruhr, where the turbine at the heart of the dispute is currently stored, the chancellor accused Russia of using bogus technical issues as an excuse for a politically motivated cut to gas supplies, which are raising fears about EU supplies over the winter.

“The turbine is there, it can be delivered. All someone has to do is say I want it, and it will be there very quickly,” Scholz told reporters.

Since mid-June, Russia has curbed gas deliveries to Germany and other European states via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which is currently only used at 20 percent of its capacity. Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom argues that sanctions, which western countries imposed against Russia for invading Ukraine, are to blame for the falling supplies. Specifically, Gazprom insists that one of the turbines required for gas transport, which was in Canada for maintenance, could not be delivered back to Russia due to the sanctions.

The German government, however, intervened in Canada to ensure the turbine could be sent back to Germany, where it is now currently awaiting transport to Russia.

Scholz’s public intervention on Wednesday was an attempt to counter the Russian narrative that western sanctions were to blame for the problems surrounding the turbine and the gas deliveries.

“Nothing stands in the way of further transport,” the chancellor said, adding that Germany and international partners had issued all the necessary authorizations to allow fast delivery of the turbine. “There are no reasons why this delivery cannot take place,” he went on, arguing that the only reason for the delay was Russia’s refusal to request an onward delivery.

Scholz added Germany could not simply ship the turbine to Russia “and dump it off at a pier” in St Petersburg but needed to coordinate with Gazprom and Russian authorities.

He also said Russia could alternatively deliver more gas via other pipelines if it wanted. A spokesperson for Siemens told reporters the disputed turbine was just one of several used for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, and that it was technically possible to keep the pipeline at full capacity even without that one missing turbine.

Scholz warned that even if Russia ultimately arranged delivery of the turbine, Germany must be prepared “that there may be any pretextual reasons put forward at any time that something is not working.”

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