Relations between Poland and Russia almost always have been tense throughout history.
Wars, military interventions, invasions, repressions, thoroughly-planned undermining propagandistic operations and many other destructive actions of Kremlin forced official Warsaw to choose more prudent and pragmatic foreign policy towards Russia – developing own defense capabilities; strengthening Poland’s position in NATO and the EU; pursuing an active regional policy.
Another important direction and one of the key foreign policy priorities of Poland has become energy security.
Why does energy security matter?
The lessons, for the last two decades have proved a hypothesis of many western experts that energy superiority provides Russia with significant political instruments to undermine or influence stability of various international state actors. The lessons from the last two decades perfectly illustrate how Russian government unilaterally modifies prices and gas delivery conditions upon its political sympathies and preferences (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova etc.).
Once the question – “Why does energy security matter to Poland?” – is answered, let’s talk about the current situation and challenges.
A long-term energy supply contract that currently binds Warsaw to Gazprom will expire in 2022. The PiS government is working hard to achieve an energy security by that date, based on self-production and diversification, ceasing the dependence on Russian natural gas. By the way, in 2017 it covered 54% of Polish domestic demand.
To achieve the above-mentioned goal, the Polish Oil and Gas Company (POGC) have concluded a series of historic procurement contracts over the last few years with the United States, Qatar and Norway. In addition, Poland managed to upgrade the capacity of the Świnoujście liquefied gas terminal from 5 to 7.5 billion cubic meters per year.
The most important bilateral agreements have been signed between 2018-2019 with the American Venture Global Calcasieu Pass and Venture Global Plaquemines LNG. The agreement has a duration of twenty years and will guarantee Poland an annual supply of over 3 million and 500 thousand tons of liquefied gas per year.
However, the most ambitious project in the Polish energy strategy is the Baltic gas pipeline. The facility will transport the gas collected in the North Sea via Denmark and, in the plans of the PiS, should be used to make Poland a regional energy hub from which the Visegrad countries will be able to stock up, thanks to an annual transport capacity of 10 billion meters cubes. The capacity has been scrupulously studied to allow the complete replacement of Russian gas imports. Work should be started by the end of the year and finished by October 2022.
Starting from 2024, the sum of the contracts agreed by the PoGC with Norwegians, Qataris and Americans, allows the country to receive a constant and regular flow of at least 12.5 billion cubic meters of liquefied gas annually – a figure which can be understood the full meaning only comparing it to the current quantity of liquefied gas received, which is 3.5 billion cubic meters.
The natural gas from Norway and the liquefied from the United States and Qatar will be higher than what is demanded by the national demand, and the dispensable will be used to create a small energy market, free from the Russian monopoly and inflated prices, with Poland at the center.
According to Rick Perry, the energy secretary of Trump’s administration , the United States aims to gradually and significantly increase the export capacity of liquefied natural gas in European countries as part of a broader strategy to reduce the Russian influence on the Old Continent.
In this context, there is the approach with Poland which, by virtue of the leading role played in the Baltic area and in the Visegrad alliance, could mark the beginning of an unprecedented energy revolution that would guarantee Washington a record in the European market gas before today unthinkable and impractical.
For these reasons, Perry renamed the US liquefied gas as the “gas of freedom”, claiming that it is the umpteenth instrument with which his country would once again be saving the European ally, first threatened by the Nazi-fascist axis, then by the Soviet empire and today from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
In terms of energy diversification, Poland makes very important decisions that can become commonly shared European precedent with a significant impact on EU foreign policy. This decision will lead to the reduction of Kremlin’s influence in Europe but this step – apart from its practical aspect – requires huge courage and political will …
The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tbilisi or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.