Subject: Kiev’s threat to jeopardise Austria’s energy security

Open letter to the Austrian Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer

Dear Mr Federal Chancellor
In autumn 2023, the head of the Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz, Olexiy Chernyshov, announced his intention to stop the transit of Russian natural gas through Ukraine at the end of December 2024. In spring 2024, over 90% of Austria’s gas supply will depend on precisely this gas, which has been flowing reliably to Baumgarten since 1968. So far, I am not aware of any efforts on the part of Austria to dissuade Ukraine from this plan. However, it is high time they did. 
  With this letter, I am taking the liberty of reminding you of the possibilities of averting the threat to Austrian energy security posed by Ukraine, which is at war with Russia. To this end, I would ask you to consider the following five measures.

  1. summoning the Ukrainian ambassador by Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg to explain our situation to the ambassador and emphasise the importance of Russian natural gas for Austria. It should also be made clear that good intergovernmental relations, such as those that exist between Austria and Ukraine and are still desirable, must not be exploited unilaterally to the disadvantage of one partner. It is unacceptable for Austria to spend hundreds of millions of euros in aid money on Ukraine and to harbour and support tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, while at the same time Ukraine cuts Austria off from its most important source of energy. 
  2. launch a diplomatic offensive towards Budapest and Bratislava (as well as Rome) in order to achieve a common position against Kiev’s plans. Hungary and Slovakia in particular are dependent on Russian gas, which is channelled to our countries via Ukraine, to a similar extent as Austria.
  3. to promote understanding for Austria’s position in Brussels. In this respect, the European elections at the beginning of June 2024 could open up one or two opportunities for not basing the EUs Ostpolitik solely on opposition to Russia. Neither the EU nor individual states, and certainly not Austria, are at war with Russia. Here, too, it would be necessary to remind those responsible that interstate relations should be characterised by mutual respect and a balance of interests. Billions in aid to Kiev cannot be answered with interventions in the energy infrastructure, for example, which are extremely damaging for several EU states.
  4. communicating the Ukrainian project without the anti-Russian statements that have been common for a few years now. It is not Moscow that is interrupting Austria’s gas supply, but Kiev, which – incidentally – earns well from the transit fees.
  5. communicate potential Austrian means of protecting its energy policy interests vis-à-vis Ukraine. This should be done as part of a media offensive. In return for the unfriendly act intended by Kiev, Austria could suspend its aid to Ukraine, announce an intensified review of aid for Ukrainian refugees and lend its voice (possibly together with Hungary and Slovakia) to EU bodies in order to prevent further sanctions against Russia, which have not had the desired effect for ten years, and to gradually dismantle existing sanctions. 

I hope that you will find my ideas on safeguarding Austrian energy policy interests useful and I remain yours sincerely 

Dr Hannes Hofbauer, publicist & publisher,

(Translation Current Concerns)

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