Gas Paradox: Finland Continues to Buy Russian LNG Despite Promises to Throttle Supplies
© Sputnik / Alexey VitvitskyAn LNG regasification terminal
© Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky/
While Finland was a keen supporter of the EU's anti-Russian sanctions, intended as “punishment” for Moscow's special operation in Ukraine, its own economy suffered a heavy blowback amid Europe's ballooning energy and cost-of-living crises. Finnish Prime Minister Marin even went so far as to say that the nation was living in a “wartime economy.”
Despite the EU's guidelines on reducing consumption of Russian energy and its own plans to disengage from “energy dependency” on Moscow, Finland continues to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia.
The Finnish state company Gasum continues to procure Russian gas, because otherwise it will have to transfer money to Russia for nothing, due a “take or pay” clause in the contract, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.
Under this condition, Helsinki undertakes to purchase a certain amount of LNG every year. “We either get gas and pay for it, or we don't get gas and still pay for it,” Gasum communications director Olga Väisänen explained to Helsingin Sanomat.
Earlier, Gasum signed a long-term contract with Gazprom Export and has been receiving Russian LNG since 2018. Supplies of LNG are not subject to the requirement to pay in rubles, as was the case with pipeline gas. In late May, Moscow stopped its pipeline gas deliveries to Finland, following Helsinki's refusal to pay using Russia's currency. Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin's demanded that unfriendly countries pay for their gas in rubles.
“Finland joined the unfriendly steps taken by the European Union towards our country. This cannot fail to arouse our regret, and is a reason for corresponding symmetrical responses on our side,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Furthermore, Russia called Finland's bid to join NATO a hostile move that posed a threat to its security. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia would need to take “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security from arising.”
While gas until recently only accounted for around 8 percent of Finland’s energy consumption, the cutoff nevertheless jeopardized several gas-reliant sectors of industry, including baking and forestry.
In August, Property Management Minister Tytti Tuppurainen told Helsingin Sanomat that imports of LNG from Russia should be stopped. However, Gas market expert Heikki Lindfors advised Helsinki to continue the current arrangement. Despite the fact that the EU's decision to cut back on supplies of Russian energy were designed to hurt Russia financially, a stop in imports, he stressed, will nonetheless increase Russia's income. Moscow can sell unclaimed LNG to other countries and make money from it, he stressed.
While Finland eagerly jumped on the EU's sanctions bandwagon, intended to “punish” Russia for its special operation in Ukraine to protect the inhabitants of the Donbass People's Republics, they backfired spectacularly, and its own economy is suffering bitterly amid energy and cost-of-living crises spreading across Europe. Finland's Finance Ministry warned the country was headed towards recession in its recent review, envisaging an annual inflation rate of as much as 6.5 percent.
This week, the Finnish grid company Fingrid asked fellow Finns to prepare for power outages this coming winter, as imports from neighboring Sweden may decrease. The company pointed out that Finland will be able to import less electricity from southern Sweden in the coming months due to the maintenance works on the Ringhals 4 nuclear reactor at Varberg, which will take longer than previously thought due to a lack of spare parts. The maintenance should have been completed by the end of November but is now projected to last until the end of January.
Earlier this month, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin acknowledged that the country is facing an unprecedented energy crisis and went so far as to say that the nation was living in a “wartime economy.”
Last year, before the current crisis, Russia supplied the EU with 40 percent of its natural gas. In 2021, Germany, Europe's largest economy, was the largest importer, followed by Italy.