If democracy and sustainability are about to prevail in Europe, then governments should rein over the companies who rush for quick profit at the expense of us all, Andrii Zhupanyn writes.
In his New Year's address at the end of 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would help Ukraine "without fail" and "until victory itself." The encouraging words were part of a concerted effort by Macron to position France as one of Ukraine’s foremost allies.
But the president’s words ring increasingly hollow.
If France’s meagre aid contribution to Ukraine took the sheen off his accomplished rhetoric, then recent actions by the country’s private sector have quashed any aspirations on the part of the Élysée to be seen as leading the support for Ukraine.
Oil and gas money is key to Russia's war effort
Explosive reports published last week by French domestic outlets add to the mounting body of evidence linking French companies to Russia’s fossil fuels industry.
Investigative journalists have revealed how Technip Energies, a relatively unknown French engineering company, helped the Russian energy giant Novatek continue construction of Arctic LNG 2 — the company’s massive new liquid natural gas plant in the Arctic — despite the large-scale invasion of Ukraine and the EU sanctions regime.
Oil and gas accounted for 45% of the Russian federal budget in 2021, so it's clear that the industry plays a central role in financing Vladimir Putin’s war against the Ukrainian people.
The Technip story would be shocking in isolation, but when seen in the context of France’s ongoing broader involvement with Russia’s LNG industry, it becomes truly shameful.
Purely about profit
France is the second-largest importer of Russian LNG in Europe.
TotalEnergies, France’s largest oil and gas producer and the 21st largest company in the world, has so far refused to leave Russia.
This is because it is making vast sums of money from trading Russian LNG. According to an analysis from Global Witness, Total is the biggest non-Russian buyer of liquified gas from the country.
This goes some way to explaining why, according to research from IEEFA, Russian LNG from the Yamal plant continues to be transshipped at France’s Montoir-de-Bretagne LNG terminal and sent to other markets.
France cannot therefore claim this LNG is contributing to energy security; this is purely about profit.
And now we have Technip Energies’ support of Novatek, a company accused of providing mercenaries to the Russian army.
Putin’s smirk when he launched the first part of Arctic LNG 2 from its construction site in Murmansk in July reflected his satisfaction at developing a vital project in the face of Western sanctions.
Knowing this was only possible thanks to assistance from a country calling itself an ally of Ukraine makes me sick to my stomach.
French companies are still filling Putin's coffers
Moreover, much like the Nord Stream 2, the Arctic LNG 2 project is a dire threat to the EU’s energy security and climate policies.
This major expansion of Russia’s gas export capacity will not only boost the aggressor country's economy but will also have climate-damaging consequences due to the extremely high methane emissions in the supply chain.
If democracy and sustainability are about to prevail in Europe, then governments should rein over the companies who rush for quick profit at the expense of us all.
I am aware that the president alone cannot dictate private companies’ behaviour, but it is well within Macron’s power to prevent them from filling Putin’s war chest.
Options available to him include advocating for EU-wide sanctions on Russian LNG imports and sanctioning companies connected to the development of Arctic LNG 2, such as has already been done in the US.
Macron needs to take this seriously
The story on TechnipEnergies could also serve as a basis for an official investigation into the company’s involvement in Russian LNG build-out post-invasion of Ukraine and that of all other European hardware suppliers to the Arctic LNG 2 project.
Macron could also cut off any kind of diplomatic, political and financial support to TotalEnergies until the company leaves Russia and stops trading Russian gas.
I advise the French president to take seriously the options above.
France’s unconscionable support for Russia’s fossil fuels industry — on which Putin depends to finance his war on our people — must end now.
Andrii Zhupanyn (Servant of the People party) is a member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and Chair of the Subcommittee on Natural Gas.
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