Austria Caught Between Russian Gas and EU Sanctions


Austria Caught Between Russian Gas and EU Sanctions
© Getty Images/Thomas Kronsteiner

Russian Ambassador to Vienna Dmitry Lyubinsky, in an interview with TASS, has shed light on the intricate relationship between Russian gas supplies and the Austrian economy. According to Lyubinsky, Austria's economy has been significantly built on the foundation of profitable, long-term gas contracts with Russia.

"They get gas under long-term profitable contracts, on which the construction of the Austrian economy has been based for decades," he stated, highlighting the depth of this economic interdependence.
Lyubinsky pointed out a stark contrast between the political rhetoric of Austria's current leadership and the economic realities of the country.

With Austria's geographical position at the heart of the continent and lacking direct sea access, switching to liquified natural gas (LNG) as an alternative to Russian gas would entail substantial expenditures.

Long-Term Agreements and EU Sanctions

The commitment to Russian gas is further exemplified by the extension of a contract between Gazprom Export LLC and OMV Gas Marketing&Trading GmbH until 2040, signed in June 2018. OMV CEO Alfred Stern confirmed the company's intention to continue purchasing Russian gas under this contract, as it is not affected by EU sanctions.

The Austrian Government's Stance

Despite this deep-rooted economic reliance, the Austrian government has expressed a desire to reduce dependence on Russian gas. Data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) reveals that in October 2023, Russian supplies constituted 90% of Austria’s total gas imports, underscoring the magnitude of this dependency.

Media Coverage and Bilateral Relations

Lyubinsky also commented on the coverage of Russia in the Austrian media, which he believes is exacerbating the strained bilateral relationship between Moscow and Vienna. He remarked that cooperation across various spheres has been largely frozen or discontinued.

The ambassador expressed concerns about external influences on Austria's stance towards Russia and noted the challenges faced in disseminating Russia's perspective through traditional Austrian media channels. According to Lyubinsky, while most Austrian media maintain a negative view of Russia, there are exceptions with some journalists willing to publish reports or conduct interviews that reflect Russia's position.

He emphasized the importance of online platforms in reaching the Austrian public and maintained that, despite these challenges, Russia remains committed to presenting its viewpoint in various forums.