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With the looming winter, the question of Russia delivering sufficient gas for power, warmth, and industry is frequently discussed across German media. However, as far as I am aware, only the possible threat of Russia delivering insufficient or no gas at all has been discussed so far. Also, only the phrasing 'delivery of X% of the technically possible amount' is used which does not state what the actually ordered amount was. I keep wondering: Has Russia, as of August 21st, actually reduced the amount of delivered gas below their contractual obligations in violation of their contract?

As far as I know the only reduction(s) of gas delivery were announced and officially due to required repairs and (probably?) within contractual limitations.

I would be satisfied with news, or official statements that are detailing information on how much gas has actually been ordered in comparison to how much gas has been delivered? However, a more in-depth perspective on gas contracts, e.g., how long can a reparation be contractually justified, would be much appreciated.

The only hint I found of contractual violations is in the context of Uniper insolvency. However, the phrasing and article seems to avoid to actually call out any contractual violations.

A bit more than half [of the expected losses], are in connection with expected future consequences of limits of gas imports from Russia.

Etwas mehr als die Hälfte davon, 6,5 Milliarden Euro, stünden im
Zusammenhang mit erwarteten künftigen Auswirkungen von Gaslieferbeschränkungen aus Russland, teilte der Konzern heute mit.

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  • 3
    Probably impossible to answer since the contracts are typically not public. Scholz complained that Russia isn't taking back a turbine after it was fixed, and so they reduced the flow claiming technical problems. Whether that's a violation of contract depends on the fine print, which isn't public, AFAIK, and even if it were, it would probably be a matter for courts to decide. The famous picture with Scholz standing in front of the turbine aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/3/…
    – Fizz
    Aug 21 at 23:42
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    @Fizz Yes, that part is might not be answerable. However, the question whether Russia reduced the delivered amount below the ordered amount should be, it would be quite sad from a journalistic perspective if nobody actually asked that question and it is quite possible that the currently delivered amount suffices to fulfill a minimal obligation?
    – Sim
    Aug 21 at 23:47
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    Wasn't the switch from €/$ payments to Russian rubles be a breach of contract? When that was in the news the media clearly stated that switching to rubles would be a breach of contract but I don't recall whether the switch was just threatened or actually carried through.
    – quarague
    Aug 22 at 7:14
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    I have no idea whether such a thing has actually happened, but it's conceivable that Russia could falsely claim the existence of circumstances that allow it to reduce deliveries according to the contract. This is normally known as fraud. The question allows for the possibility of fraud by saying that some reductions were "officially due [to] required repairs," implying that they might not actually have been caused by repairs. But the question seems to accept that this isn't a breach of contract. Should we infer that disingenuousness and fraud are beyond the scope of the question?
    – phoog
    Aug 22 at 9:28
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    @phoog yes, for the sake of keeping this question fact based and political alignment free I would prefer a fact based answer using official numbers and not solely interpreting current official statements and maneuvering. However, discussing the caveat of fraudulent behavior as part of the answer would be appreciated and in my opinion somewhat required to keep the desired neutrality. However, numbers first, interpretation second.
    – Sim
    Aug 22 at 11:47

1 Answer 1

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All I can really tell you is that back in mid July Gazprom declared force majeure on NS1 but that one its (main) German receivers rejected the claim, while the other refused to comment on the legal angle:

Russia's Gazprom has told customers in Europe it cannot guarantee gas supplies because of "extraordinary" circumstances, according to a letter seen by Reuters, upping the ante in an economic tit-for-tat with the West over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian state gas monopoly said in a letter dated July 14 that it was retroactively declaring force majeure on supplies from June 14. [...]

A trading source, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the force majeure concerned supplies through Nord Stream 1.

"This sounds like a first hint that the gas supplies via NS1 will possibly not resume after the 10-day maintenance has ended," said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro.

“Depending on what ‘extraordinary’ circumstances have in mind in order to declare the force majeure, and whether these issues are technical or more political, it could mean the next step in escalation between Russia and Europe/Germany," he added.

Uniper, Germany's biggest importer of Russian gas, was among the customers that said it had received a letter, and that it had formally rejected the claim as unjustified.

RWE (RWEG.DE), Germany's largest power producer and another importer of Russian gas, also said it has received a force majeure notice.

"Please understand that we cannot comment on its details or our legal opinion," the company said.

What that means, in general:

Force majeure is a provision in a contract that frees both parties from obligation if an extraordinary event directly prevents one or both parties from performing.

FWTW, apparently, the politico-technical response from Moscow was the suggestion to open NS2, which they also said it was a German inquiry (made by former chancellor Schröder):

“Putin explained everything in detail, and the former chancellor asked if it was possible to use Nord Stream 2 in a critical situation,” Peskov said. “Putin was not the initiator, Putin did not offer to turn it on, but Putin said that it is technologically possible and this complex mechanism is ready for instant use.”

On the same day, Gazprom themselves said that getting/accepting back the NS1 turbine (the one that Scholz is photographed standing in front of) is impossible due to sanctions despite Scholz' claim to the contrary. I was only able to find a horrible (probably machine) translation of the full statement by Gazprom. Apparently they seem to be saying that shipping the turbine not directly from Canada to Russia was bad (breach of contract, maybe?) and likewise not shipping it on time, so they are asking for some kind of guarantees they won't be affected by sanctions (again?). Found a better translation here. They seem to be saying that they're afraid of being held legally liable for breaching sanctions in Canada or in the UK if they take delivery from Germany, due to the complicated nature of the maintenance contract.

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  • Btw. just in case somebody wanted to find out if that was or wasn't a breach of contract (not that it really matters much currently with a war going on), which jurisdiction would one need to go to? Is this known? Some WTO arbitration court maybe?
    – Trilarion
    Aug 22 at 6:20
  • FTWT, a subsequent 3-week "trolling" by Siemens on Twitter didn't impress Gazprom one bit, to change their mind regarding the turbine. (Gazprom responded in kind on Twitter.)
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 6:26
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    @Trilarion: typically there are arbitration clauses in the contract(s). Without seeing them, it's impossible to tell where. reuters.com/article/gazprom-overgas-court-idAFL5N17A467
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 6:29
  • @Fizz From the article: "Siemens: let's make a playlist to accompany a genocide campaign we are heavily investing into with our money. It's been to long since the last one we payed for" Interesting take
    – SirHawrk
    Aug 22 at 9:24
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    The last quote is misleading without the rest of the article. The person described as "former chancellor" is former chancellor Gerhard Schröder who has a position in the Nord Stream 2 consortium, and not the current chancellor, Olaf Scholz you go on writing about. That makes the whole commotion about NS2 a lot less authoritative. Aug 22 at 13:55

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