What would France do if Russia cuts off the gas supply?

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that the country is making "preparations" should Russia decide to cut off the gas supply.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that France was preparing for the possibility that Russia might cut off the gas supply.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that France was preparing for the possibility that Russia might cut off the gas supply. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / POOL / AFP)

France and Germany are preparing for a cut in Russian gas deliveries, France’s economy minister said on Thursday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Moscow will turn off the taps for those who refuse to pay in rubles.

“On the sanctions against Russia, we will not accept the payment of gas in any other currency than stated in the contract,” said Bruno Le Maire following talks in Berlin with his German counterpart Robert Habeck.

“There could be a situation tomorrow in which there is no longer any Russian gas. It’s up to us to prepare for these scenarios and we are preparing.” 

On Tuesday the head of France’s main gas distribution network, Laurence Poirier-Dietz, said the government may be required to pass a load-shedding decree, in which parts of the country have gas cut off on a rotating basis to ration supply. Hospitals, schools and retirement homes would be spared. 

“We have enough gas coming from other sources and supplies to get by until next winter,” she said in an interview with Sud-Ouest

“The question will be asked about how to fill reserve stocks during the summer.” 

French newspaper Les Echos report that filling the reserve stocks would cost in the region of €10 billion. 

France has the option of importing gas from other countries like Norway, Libya or Azerbaijan. It also has its own supplies of subterranean gas in the northern département of Pas-de-Calais and a number of methane plants, the biggest of which is in Seine-et-Marne. 

“We can try to stimulate investment and double production capacity,” said Carole Mathieu a researcher with the French Institute of International Relations, during an interview with France Info. “That would bring us to 40 billion cubic metres at the European level, but Russia produced 155 billion cubic metres last year. There is work to do.”

The French government said that load-shedding would be a last resort. 

Earlier in March, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that the government would seek to end French dependency on Russian gas and oil supplies by 2027. 

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France ‘strongly condemns’ Russia’s expulsion of its diplomats

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.

France 'strongly condemns' Russia's expulsion of its diplomats

Saying the step had “no legitimate basis”, the ministry said in a statementthat “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a tit-for-tat move following the
expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement

“It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation,” the foreign ministry said.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially led diplomatic outreach to the Kremlin over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine but his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin have eventually tapered off and overt French military
support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.