Putin’s Rubles-for-Gas Threat: Desperate Measure or Start of Bigger Changes?

April 6, 2022|Energy Markets

The global energy community was initially bewildered by Moscow’s threats last week demanding ruble payment for energy sales. Russian President Vladimir Putin set an April 1 deadline for the measure, which left some wondering whether it was a mischievous geopolitical prank. That certainly wasn’t the case.

The threat was real and aimed at “unfriendly nations” which includes Japan, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, South Korea, and all EU member states. With Europe’s economy dependent on Russia for about 40% of gas imports and 25% of oil, EU leaders began to prepare for possible disruption of energy supplies that would have had catastrophic consequences.

Germany’s finance minister was the first to reject the notion, saying that energy contracts can’t be altered. Other EU countries quickly followed suit. Since Russian energy exports to Japan are much smaller, METI Minister Hagiuda waited a few days before telling the G7 that Japan won’t accept Russia unilaterally changing contract terms between private companies.

The political standoff will not surface in energy flows just yet since commodities already paid for will be delivered as agreed, according to Russia. But from the middle of April, the impact will start to be seen. With the ruble’s recent rebound, President Putin is seeking to build on his gambit to subvert the dollar-bound commodity world order. For the Kremlin, ruble-priced gas is just the beginning.

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