German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has inspected a turbine at the center of a natural gas dispute and declared on Wednesday that “there are no problems” preventing the part from being returned to Russia, other than missing information from Russia’s state-controlled gas company.
BERLIN, Germany (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz inspected a turbine at the center of a natural gas dispute on Wednesday and declared that “there are no problems” preventing the part’s return to Russia, other than missing information from Russia’s state-controlled gas company.
Last week, Russian energy giant Gazprom cut the amount of natural gas flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in half to 20% of capacity, blaming the latest cut on turbine delivery delays caused by Western sanctions.
Before Russia invaded Ukraine and was sanctioned by the West, Siemens Energy’s German partner sent the turbine to Canada for overhaul, which was a routine process.
The German government claims the turbine was supposed to be installed in September and is no longer required for the pipeline to function; it claims Moscow is using bogus technical explanations as a cover for a political move to create uncertainty and drive up gas prices.
The turbine is currently being stored at a Siemens Energy facility in Mulheim a der Ruhr, Germany.
“This turbine can be used at any time,” Scholz said as he stood next to the 18-ton piece of machinery. “Nothing is preventing its transport to Russia — other than the Russian recipients stating that they want the turbine and providing the necessary information for customs transport to Russia.”
“All other permits are there,” the chancellor added, referring to the permits from Germany, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada. “There are no issues.”
The repeated reductions in gas deliveries to various countries by Gazprom have raised concerns that Russia may cut off supplies entirely to gain political leverage over Europe.
According to German officials, Gazprom must specify where the turbine will be sent. Scholz stated that he was publicly testing the turbine to “demystify” it.
Germany’s insistence that “there are no technical reasons for reducing gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1” was reiterated by the chancellor.
He claimed that sanctions do not apply to natural gas, which is used to power industry, heat homes, and generate electricity.
Gazprom has stated repeatedly that it has requested documents and clarification from Siemens Energy. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the company specifically wants documents from Siemens Energy proving that the turbine is not subject to Western sanctions.
“We must ensure that it is not sanctioned.” “We need to ensure that Siemens’ British subsidiary in charge of it does not turn it off remotely in the future as part of sanctions,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.
Peskov stated that during a recent meeting in Moscow, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder asked Russian President Vladimir Putin if the completed but not yet operational Nord Stream 2 pipeline could be put into service in an emergency to meet Europe’s energy needs.
Scholz’s government halted the new pipeline’s certification process in February, just before the invasion of Ukraine.
Putin stated that Nord Stream 2 could begin operations at half capacity because Gazprom is now using the other half for Russia’s domestic market, according to Peskov.
Schroeder’s long-standing ties to Russia’s energy sector — including the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines — and refusal to distance himself personally from Putin following the invasion of Ukraine have shattered his domestic political standing.
Schroeder argued in an interview with Stern magazine and RTL television on Wednesday that using Nord Stream 2 would be the “simplest solution” in the event of a gas shortage.
Scholz sees Nord Stream 2 as a political non-starter, stating that “we ended the approval process for good reason.” He also stated that “there is enough capacity in Nord Stream 1,” as well as the availability of two other pipelines, one running through Ukraine and the other through Belarus and Poland.
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