Europe Begs Authoritarian Countries For Gas Amid Energy Crisis

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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European leaders traveled to authoritarian countries Monday in search of new energy deals as Russia’s threats to cut off gas exports grow more extreme.

Leaders of the European Commission (EC), Italy and France rushed to ink energy agreements with counterparts in Azerbaijan, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to offset the deficit in Russian gas imports, the Associated Press reported. The EC signed a deal Monday to increase gas imports from Azerbaijan from 8 to 12 billion cubic meters in the next year, reaching 20 billion by 2027, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

“Already before Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian gas supplies to Europe were no more reliable. The European Union has therefore decided to diversify away from Russia and to turn towards more reliable, trustworthy partners,” said von der Leyen.

Russian state oil giant Gazprom announced it would halt gas supply to at least one customer in Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, citing uncontrollable circumstances, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Monday. The move may confirm fears that Russia would terminate gas exports to Europe, which relies heavily on energy from Russia. (RELATED: Germany Debates Running Back To Nuclear Power As Russia Threatens To Shut Off Gas To Europe)

But Russia has a presence in Azeri natural gas markets. Russia’s second-largest oil company, Lukoil, spent $1.45 billion to buy a 10% stake in Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz natural gas project in February, Reuters reported.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said Algeria reached a $4 billion agreement with Italian Premier Mario Draghi, to be signed Tuesday, for “a significant quantity of gas,” according to the Associated Press.

Algeria and Russia have deepened ties since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and Tebboune once described Russia as a “brotherly country,” according to ABC News.

French President Emanuel Macron achieved an understanding with the UAE to cooperate on energy while hosting UAE Emir Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Paris Monday, the Associated Press reported. France and the UAE have deep ties, and France inked a major arms deal with the UAE in 2021, according to the AP.

But the UAE’s foreign minister said in March that the oil-rich kingdom hoped to expand energy cooperation with Russia, according to Reuters. His statement happened at the same time Russia implemented a currency switch deadline that threatened gas supply to Europe, Reuters reported.

Freedom House, a government-funded democracy research organization, rates Algeria and Azerbaijan, though nominally democratic, as not free for their corruption and authoritarian presidencies. Hereditary monarchy and severe restrictions on personal liberties make the UAE not free as well, according to Freedom House.

President Joe Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia, a monarchy he previously called a “pariah,” on Friday in what experts speculate was an attempt to persuade Saudi Arabia to increase oil production as the U.S. faces its own energy troubles. Biden failed to achieve a concrete commitment from Saudi Arabia, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The EC, Office of the Italian President and Government of France did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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