This is economic coercion. It is Moscow weaponizing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy to impose costs, even when doing so comes at a non-trivial cost to Russia itself. As such, Moscow’s approach challenges long-held assumptions about geopolitics in a globalized world. The Nord Stream yo-yo game demonstrates the degree to which modern spoilers are willing to extend confrontation to the market space – and, also, to eat economic hardship for the sake of larger strategic objectives. The big question: How willing is the West to do the same?
There’s a China angle to this LNG debacle, too, and it suggests that the answer is not very: With natural gas prices surging, China is beating Europe to securing US LNG cargoes. Why? Because sellers want to ink 15- to 20-year contracts, and that time span is too long for the EU’s energy transition timeline. And, in part due to weak domestic demand, China is now re-selling some of its LNG to Europe – trading short-term relief for longer-term influence over Europe’s energy supply. In other words, China is buying US LNG, then selling it to Europe in exchange for control of the continent’s market, even as the West claims alignment in fighting authoritarian leverage over the international order.