Putin earlier this week batted down as "utter nonsense" widespread accusations among Western media pundits that Europe's energy crisis is due to the Kremlin using gas as a 'geopolitical weapon'. It now appears the European Commission is quietly agreeing with him. This as Nord Stream 2, which Washington has long battled to stop, is awaiting final approval from German regulators begore going online.
As the Economist summarized of the ongoing accusations: "Russia is responding to a view gaining currency in European capitals that Gazprom, the state-controlled energy goliath that is the continent’s biggest supplier, has been stoking the continent’s energy crisis by withholding exports of natural gas. European parliamentarians are demanding that Gazprom be investigated for not shipping more gas, allegedly as a ploy to secure final regulatory approval for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline designed to ship Russian gas to Germany."
A somewhat exasperated Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week noted Gazprom has fulfilled its current obligations to the maximum extent possible under existing contracts: "Nothing can be delivered beyond the contracts. How? For free? It is a matter of negotiating with Gazprom," he said.
Of course, the somewhat sensational headline-grabbing accusations are what dominated press reports for much of the week, with new Friday comments from the European Commission getting buried. Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans indicated there's no reason to believe Russia is manipulating the market.
Timmermans bluntly said the following in an interview with Bulgarian broadcaster bTV:
"Russia is fulfilling its gas supply contracts." He added that "we have no reason to believe it is putting pressure on the market or manipulating it."
The top level Europe Commission official pointed to global nature of the problem of rising gas and energy prices, saying "the demand for gas at the global level is huge, including there."
The illuminating remarks from EU authorities themselves, once again demonstrating the ease of the "blame Russia first" narrative (and worry about hunting down evidence later), come two days after Putin spoke before Russia's annual Energy Week.
"Higher gas prices in Europe are a consequence of a deficit of energy and not vice versa and that’s why we should not deal in blame shifting, this is what our partners are trying to do," Putin said during the panel conversation.
The statement, from Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s deputy head, contradicts weeks of hysterical US/UK media coverage which alleged Russia was withholding gas in order to "weaponise" energy supplies.— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) October 15, 2021
For example... pic.twitter.com/nMPQE228v9
He invoked Europe's green agenda as playing a big part in its energy costs soaring just ahead of winter: "You see the problem does not consist in us, it consists in the European side, because, first, we know that the wind farms did not work during summer because of the weather, everyone knows that."
Putin said something similar to the latest assessment from Frans Timmermans. The Russian president added: "Moreover, the Europeans did not pump enough gas into their underground gas facilities... and the supplies to Europe have decreased from other regions of the world."