Finland Braces For Russian Gas Cut-Off Ahead Of NATO Decision

Finland is prepared that it could be next on Russia’s list for cutting off gas deliveries for European Union members, as the Russian neighbor to northwest is expected to decide within weeks whether to apply to join NATO.  “Finland is prepared for the possibility that gas deliveries from Russia would end,” Finnish Minister of European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen told Reuters on Thursday.

Russia has already halted natural gas supply to two EU members as it insists customers start paying in rubles for its gas. Last week, Gazprom stopped gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria, saying supply was cut off “due to absence of payments in rubles.”

Finland has refused to pay in rubles, which could result in its Russian supply being cut off, all the more so that Russia has warned Finland, as well as Sweden, against applying to join NATO. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine pushed the previously relatively neutral EU members Finland and Sweden to consider joining the Western military alliance. Russia, for its part, has cited NATO expanding to its borders as a reason to consider it a threat to its interests.

Both Finland and Sweden are expected to decide whether to apply for NATO membership in the coming weeks. 

Meanwhile, a Russian army helicopter violated Finland’s airspace on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Finnish defense ministry told AFP.

In the interim, NATO announced on Thursday that it would provide extra security and increase its presence in the Baltic Sea while the fate of Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership is being decided. 

Finland gets up to 70 percent of the gas it uses from Russia, although gas doesn’t have a large share in the overall energy mix. 

Getting ready to be cut off from Russian gas, Finland has been preparing to use alternative energy sources. Last month, the Government’s Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy recommended that Finland lease a large liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal ship in cooperation with Estonia.  

“As a result of the war in Ukraine, we must also be prepared for gas imports to stop. A floating LNG terminal is an effective way to secure the gas supply for our industry,” Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintilä said in April.