WAR IN EUROPE
George Soros advises world leaders how to ditch Putin’s war-financing gas supply
The billionaire has said Russia will have to resort to closing down Siberian gas wells without its European market as the nation’s storage capacity reaches its limit.
Billionaire businessman and philanthropist George Soros has urged Europe to turn the tables on Russian president Vladimir Putin by accelerating its independence from Russian gas.
Putin’s only gas market is Europe and he is running out of storage capacity. So if Europe stops buying Russian gas, he would have to shut down the gas wells in Siberia where the gas comes from, he says.
Soros spelt out his strategy in a letter to Italian prime minister Mario Draghi whom he considers the go-to European leader because of his “leadership” and “imagination.”
The Hungarian-born Soros, who now lives in the US and has donated billions of dollars to foundations advancing democracy, divulged his letter to Draghi during a dinner at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Putin is obviously blackmailing Europe by threatening to or actually withholding gas,” Soros wrote to Draghi. “That’s what he did last season. He put gas in storage rather than supplying gas to Europe.
“This created a shortage, raised prices and earned him a lot of money. But his bargaining position is not as strong as he pretends.
“It is estimated that Russian storage capacity will be full by July. Europe is his only market. If he doesn’t supply Europe, he must shut down the wells in Siberia from where the gas comes.
“Some 12,000 wells are involved. It takes time to shut them down and once they are shut down, they are difficult to reopen because of the age of the equipment.”
But “Europe would need to undertake urgent preparations before using its bargaining power,” Soros warned. “Without it, the pain of sudden stoppage would be politically very hard to bear.”
However, he noted these preparations were necessary anyway as European countries had already committed to becoming independent of Russian gas. And he said Putin might decide anyway to turn off the taps when this would really hurt.
All of these pressures pointed in the same direction — to make Europe largely independent of Russia’s gas before winter he suggested.
He also proposed that European Union (EU) should impose “a hefty tax” on gas imports so that the price to the consumer did not drop but that the EU would earn a large amount of money which could be used to subsidise the needy and invest in green energy.
“Russia would never regain the sales it has lost,” he concluded.
After meeting President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria on Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz explained that Germany and other European countries which imported Russian gas were working hard to end these purchases as soon as possible. That included adapting infrastructure to receive the gas in liquid form via tankers rather than through gas pipelines from Russia, as now.
That would allow Germany to purchase its gas from many other sources, he said. He also described how the European nations were adapting their infrastructure to end imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022.
And they were also preparing to stop importing Russian coal by the northern autumn of this year. Scholz said Germany was shifting to other coal suppliers, including South Africa. DM