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Those who believe the Europeans do not have the stomach for a fight with Russia may be focused on the wrong battleground. The decision by the European Union’s competition commissioner to proceed with a complaint that charges Gazprom, the giant Russian gas company, with market abuses is a bold strike that many thought would never occur. While Moscow is complaining, it looks more inclined to settle than to engage in a bloody battle.

This process began in 2007, when Europe adopted the “Third energy package,” a series of reforms that required European energy suppliers to own either the pipelines that provided gas or the gas that flowed through them. Moscow protested, and ignored the new mandates. That inaction prompted European officials to raid Gazprom offices. A formal investigation of the organization soon followed. By 2013, the EU had drawn up a “statement of objections,” the equivalent of an indictment, but for a variety of reasons it was never formally tabled. New EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager filed the document on April 22, a move that starts the clock and gives Gazprom 12 weeks to respond.

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