Greece Is Ready for Potential Russian Gas Cutoff, Mitsotakis Says

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(Bloomberg) -- The threat that Russia will completely halt its supply of natural gas to Europe is the “million-dollar question” heading into winter, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday.

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Europe is paying a heavy price through spiking energy costs, but countries remain committed to reducing their dependency on Russian gas, Mitsotakis said in an interview with Bloomberg News in New York. He said Athens will continue to support moves for a cap on natural gas prices in Europe.

Greece has for months advocated for “a cap on all gas that is actually going to be imported into the European Union, to intervene and lower this extreme volatility of the TTF index, as there’s no correlation to the two forces of supply and demand,” he said, referring to the Title Transfer Facility, a gas price benchmark.

Greece is ensuring its own supply of liquefied natural gas in case of a possible Russian cutoff, Mitsotakis said, although that preparation comes at a price: 50 million euros ($49 million) for the next six months, “simply as an insurance policy.” But he said there may be limits to how much it can share. “We are able to supply Bulgaria now because we still have access to Russian gas,” he said.

The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has helped to push past regulatory bottlenecks on renewable energy, Mitsotakis said.

“We are fully aware of the fact that we need to support our societies during this difficult winter to manage what would otherwise be exorbitant price increases,” he said. Europe was already pushing toward renewable energy sources due to climate concerns, but that effort “has been turbocharged as a result of the Russian invasion.”

Arms to Ukraine

“We’ve offered Ukraine a lot of support. We’ve gotten a lot of heat for it” due to close people-to-people ties between Greece and Russia, Mitsotakis said.

Greece is willing to provide military support to Ukraine so long as it doesn’t compromise its own security, the premier said. Greece is providing some of its older armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, replacing the legacy equipment with more modern German-built vehicles for its own fleet.

He said the Biden administration respects those limitations. “We had Russian equipment and Russian shells and all that stuff,” Mitsotakis said. “We stepped up to the plate and at the beginning delivered significant equipment. I think this was appreciated. But when they asked us for stuff we could not give, we were very clear that this is compromising our defense capabilities.”

Turkey Tensions

The Turkish government has dramatically escalated its rhetoric on the sovereignty of Greek islands and on the issue of migration, Mitsotakis said, adding that doesn’t match the situation on the ground.

The Greek premier suggested Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be looking to distract from domestic political challenges, while seeking international relevance.

“There is a red line, when you question somebody else’s sovereignty,” Mitsotakis said.

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