On Monday, the US State Department accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon, and urged Germany to consider sanctions against Russia over the price crunch. The US has spent weeks blaming Russia for the supply situation, even after spending years sabotaging the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and cutting down its own gas deliveries to the region.

French President Emmanuel Macron has dismissed the suggestion that Russia is responsible for high energy prices in Europe.

“I have no evidence that there’s been manipulation of prices and I’m not accusing anybody. These are trading relations. They shouldn’t be used for geopolitical reasons,” Macron said, speaking to the Financial Times.

Asked whether he felt that Russian gas giant Gazprom had too much power over Europe, Macron insisted that “it’s not a matter of whether we’re too dependent on a company or not, it’s how we create alternatives. And the only alternatives are to have European renewables and of course, European nuclear.”

Macron said he believes it’s unlikely for energy prices to be reduced significantly over the short term, with the main task now being to avoid interruption in supply and a further rise in rates ahead of winter. To this end, he urged more coordination between energy producing countries and energy consuming nations to soften the economic blow on households and prevent a supply breakdown.

The French president’s comments come in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s instructions to Gazprom on Wednesday to boost gas volumes at underground gas storage (UGS) facilities in Austria and Europe after Russia’s own USGs are filled up by 8 November.

Putin stressed that Gazprom has already made up for shortages in energy supplies in Europe caused by declining US and Middle Eastern gas exports, and reiterating that the situation on the energy market remains unstable, with gas reserves at Europe’s USGs estimated to be at a lower average volume than at any point in the past five years.

Gas prices in Europe surged to nearly $2,000 per thousand cubic meters (ptcm) in futures trading on European exchanges in early October amid shortages caused by a perfect storm of factors, and remained above $1,000 ptcm in Friday trading after jumping over 400 percent from around $250 ptcm in January 2021.

Russia has increased deliveries to Europe by 15 percent this year even as other suppliers, including the United States and Middle Eastern producers, have diverted up to eight billion cubic meters of gas to more lucrative markets in Asia.

Competition with Asia, poorer than expected returns on investment in alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar power, the unusually cold winter and spring of 2020-2021, and market speculation have all played a role in causing the current energy shortages.

However, Washington and its allies blame Russia for the crisis. On Monday, State Department advisor for global energy security Amos Hochstein accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon against Europe, and encouraged Germany to impose sanctions on Russia.

Accusing Russia of “politicizing” Nord Stream 2, Hochstein also stressed that the US has not changed its position “that this was a pipeline that probably should never have been built, and [that] it was not commercially driven.”

Hochstein’s claims have been echoed by German Green Party co-chair Annalena Baerbock, who recently accused Russia of “playing poker” with gas deliveries and deliberately reducing supplies amid soaring demand.

Germany, the project’s main European beneficiary, has repeatedly stressed that Nord Stream 2 is an economic project, and slammed previous US moves to sanction, sabotage and otherwise try to block the project’s completion. The Trump administration successfully delayed Nord Stream 2’s construction for over a year via sanctions. The Biden White House has since dropped restrictions against the project’s Switzerland-based operator, citing the need to improve US-German relations post-Trump.

Nord Stream 2 is technically complete and prepared to start pumping gas from one of its twin pipelines. However, it now awaits European and German regulatory approval, with the Greens – likely to be part of the next German coalition government along with the Social Democrats and the Free German Democratic Party, threatening to hold up its certification until the spring of 2022.