Defence Policy

Russian Propaganda Hits The Polish Energy Sector

The Russians are very interested in the Polish energy sector. Even despite the fact that protective measures are being implemented by the Polish authorities, the Russian companies are still trying to pursue their interests within the area. Such activities are implemented mainly within the media landscape, utilizing “friendly” experts and high level of sensitivity of the Polish media.

Russian Interest in the Polish Energy sector is very high. However, this does not translate into a satisfactory level of involvement of the Russian-driven capital, within the territory of Poland. The reason for the above is simple: Poland is protecting its strategic assets which are directly or indirectly tied to production, exploitation and transfer of the energy resources. This is a behaviour which is unique, in comparison with the states which were a part of the Soviet bloc. The Russians claim that such conduct is Russo-phobic, stating that the Warsaw authorities are blocking the investment initiatives undertaken by the Russian companies. This is an obvious lie. Besides the fact that the Russian business’s interests are focused on the strategic areas of the Polish economy, even there, within the area of those interests, we may find some deceiving examples of the Kremlin narrative. This fact may be illustrated with a simple example – our local fuel sector is an area of operations for the Russian Lukoil and Novatek companies. The former company runs a chain of petrol stations, while the latter one deals with distribution of LPG. Character and intensity of the involvement of the above-mentioned companies, within the Polish market, do not pose a threat for the energetic security of Poland, thus these subjects may freely operate within the critical area of the Polish economy.

The Russians are very interested in the Polish energy sector though. Even despite the fact that protective measures are being implemented by the Polish authorities, the Russian companies are still trying to pursue their interests within the area. And these interests do not always have a pure, economic character. Such activities are implemented mainly within the information area, utilizing “friendly” experts and high level of sensitivity of the Polish media. The article is going to present some of the most often used Russian “methods” which are used to realize political goals in the Polish energy sector.

Polish Gas Terminal is one of the most prominent examples here. The facility will make it possible for Poland to realistically diversify the natural gas supplies. Not only is the Russian gas supply the case here – competitive environment which would inflict a pricing pressure on Gazprom is of an equal importance. Even possession of an empty gas terminal may constitute an argument which may be used to negotiate a better price for the Russian blue fuel – this has been well proven by the case of Lithuania. Russia made numerous attempts of sabotage, when it comes to the Świnoujście investment. They were realized with the use of employment of a precisely defined narrative. Here we mean the emphasis placed on the fact that the gas terminal is irrelevant, due to the fact that the “Russian gas would always be cheaper”. Secondly, the issues related to “lack of profitability” of the terminal and the fact that it would constitute a “burden for the Polish budget” were also raised and stressed.

Another example of the offensive information activities, the aim of which was to have an impact on the Polish energy sector, is visible in the gas diversifications sphere. The fact that the Świnoujście terminal makes it possible to purchase the non-Russian gas is very important here. Poland is also realizing initiatives which make it possible to get gas from the Western sources. They are presented through the scope of diversification, however they are usually limited to purchase of the Russian gas from an EU member state which imports the resource through the Nord Stream pipeline. Of course, this type of initiatives is very beneficial in the context of negotiating the prices with Gazprom, however, in the light of the probable full-scale gas-driven conflict, Poland may find itself in dire straits. One should also remember that the Nord Stream pipeline may be cut off.

Another area of the Russian propaganda activity is related to the Yamal-Europe pipeline, segment of which is located in Poland. Gazprom wanted to expand this pipeline, however this was to be realized not by doubling the existing route towards Germany, but by realizing a separate initiative, in case of which a separate pipeline would be created. This pipeline would make it possible to deliver the blue fuel to Slovakia and Hungary. Warsaw faced a temptation of maintaining the transit route, and receiving all of the related profits, however no consent was granted to realize the investment. Due to the above, the Russians started to create a narrative, according to which “Poland, not following its economic interest (in a long term perspective), and the fact that Warsaw blocked the initiative, resulted in doing a favour for the Ukrainians – as the pipeline route was to skip the Ukrainian territory”. In reality, not only would the Russian pipeline be catastrophic for the Ukrainians (by limiting the transit), but it also would increase the Mid-Eastern Europe’s dependence on Gazprom. What is more, transfer of the Russian gas to Slovakia, with the use of the new route, would pose a threat to a strategic initiative pursued by Warsaw.  Here we mean the North-South Corridor which is going to connect the Świnoujście gas terminal with the prospective Croatian gas terminal, among other measures, with the use of a Polish-Slovakian inter-connector. This initiative would have a detrimental effect on Gazprom’s domination in the region.

When one analyses the offensive Russian activities, the aim of which is to reshape the Polish energy sector, one should refer to the gas sector primarily, since the above-described examples are representative for the whole phenomenon, even though its scope is significantly wider. The gas terminal is presented in a way which is also used, with employment of the proper narrative, to discredit the potential creation of a nuclear power-plant in Poland. It is stated that import of “cheap energy from the Kaliningrad region, and transfer profits, resulting from transfer of the Russian energy to Germany” is a more sensible solution. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Poland already is a net importer of energy – one step further, and our economy would be dependent on our eastern (in fact – north-eastern) neighbour. The narrative was also implemented when it comes to the issue of potential takeover of the Grupa Azoty company by Akron. Here, the gas consumption of the facility was devalued, similar arguments were used with a reference to the Polish gas deposits (including the shale gas). The discourse was ironic, stating that the “fertiliser manufacturing company has a strategic value for the energetic security of the country”. Fortunately, Grupa Azoty was secured by implementing proper changes in the company’s statute. Secondly, works began to adopt proper legislative measures which would protect the strategic companies, from the point of view taken by the government.