Russia cuts natural gas to 2 NATO nations in escalation

AP:

Russia cut off natural gas to NATO members Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday and threatened to do the same to other countries, dramatically escalating its standoff with the West over the war in Ukraine. European leaders decried the move as “blackmail.”

A day after the U.S. and other Western allies vowed to speed more and heavier weapons to Ukraine, the Kremlin used its most most essential export as leverage against two of Kyiv’s staunch backers. Gas prices in Europe shot up on the news.

The tactic could eventually force targeted nations to ration gas and deal another blow to economies suffering from rising prices. At the same time, it could deprive Russia of badly needed income to fund its war effort.

Poland has been a major gateway for the delivery of weapons to Ukraine and confirmed this week that it is sending the country tanks. Bulgaria, under a new liberal government that took office last fall, has cut many of its old ties to Moscow and supported sanctions against Russia over its invasion. It has also hosted Western fighter jets at a new NATO outpost on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.

The gas cuts do not immediately put the two countries in dire trouble. Poland has been working for several years to line up other sources of energy, and the continent is heading into summer, making gas less essential for households.

Yet the cutoff and the Kremlin warning that other countries could be next sent shivers of worry through the 27-nation European Union.

Western leaders and analysts portrayed the move by Russia as a bid to divide the Western allies and undermine their unity in support of Ukraine.

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