Vladimir Putin’s recent spin at energy blackmail was so much fun for him, why not take another turn? That seems to be the thinking inside the Kremlin as Russia shuts down a critical natural-gas pipeline to Europe for the second time in as many months, triggering a new panic on the Continent.
Gazprom announced Friday it will shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for three days next week for “unscheduled maintenance.” This is the primary conduit for Russian gas directly into Western Europe, and it already was running at only 20% capacity. Another maintenance shutdown last month raised fears that Russia would cut off Europe’s gas supply before the Continent was ready for such an event. Gas prices on Monday shot up, with the benchmark Dutch futures contract briefly reaching €300 per megawatt hour, according to Factset.