Russia’s Gazprom finally acted on weeks of threats and hints overnight, cutting the already-reduced flow of gas through the Nord Stream One pipeline to just 20 per cent of its full capacity.
The move brought new worries to Germany, Italy and the other European countries that depend heavily on Russian gas piped from Vyborg, Russia to Germany’s Baltic coast.
But it also brought new questions for the government of Canada — which issued a controversial sanctions waiver that was supposed to enable Gazprom to restore normal flow to Europe, which had been reduced by about 60 per cent since June.
As of 3 a.m. ET Wednesday, the flow is reduced by 80 per cent — a rate that makes it virtually impossible for European countries that depend on Russian gas to fill their underground storage tanks for winter.
The Kremlin, which controls Gazprom, has been playing with the gas supply to Europe in an effort to weaken sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia has argued that technical issues caused by sanctions were impeding normal deliveries.
The turbine dispute
At the centre of those arguments are half-a-dozen Siemens gas turbines that compress and propel gas through the undersea pipeline. Those turbines normally are removed from service on a regular, rotating schedule and refurbished in the Montreal workshops of Siemens Energy Canada.
But when Canada sanctioned Russia’s oil and gas sector, Siemens Energy was blocked from returning one of the turbines to Russia through Germany.
Russia warned that it would reduce the flow unless it got its turbine back. The government of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Canada to make an exception to its sanctions regime to permit the turbine’s return.
“We were certainly under a lot of pressure from Germany and the European Union, and on the other side we were under pressure from the Ukrainian government,” Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told CBC News on July 11, one day after his government granted a “temporary” and “revocable” sanctions waiver to allow the turbine’s return.
The Trudeau government’s decision was criticized harshly by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and by Ukrainian diaspora organizations in Canada.
Canada not signalling any change to waiver
Ukrainian officials told CBC News today that the cuts to supply proved that the sanctions waiver should not have been granted in the first place.
“This decision of waiving sanctions actually did not have any practical impact on helping…