European gas prices surged Wednesday after Russia\u0026#039;s state-owned energy giant Gazprom cut off the supply of gas to NATO members Poland and Bulgaria, a move seen as a significant escalation of what has been dubbed a \u0022fossil fuel war\u0022 between Moscow and the West.\r\n\r\nAnnounced two months into Russia\u0026#039;s deadly assault on Ukraine, Gazprom\u0026#039;s decision came weeks after the United States halted fossil fuel imports from Russia and vowed to help European nations end their reliance on Russian oil and gas.\r\n\r\nThe Kremlin said the suspension of gas shipments to the Bulgarian company Bulgargaz and the Polish firm PGNiG over their \u0022failure to pay in rubles\u0022 instead of euros or dollars and signaled it could take similar action against other countries.\r\n\r\nBulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov characterized Russia\u0026#039;s move as a breach of contract and said that \u0022we will not succumb to such a racket\u0022—a message echoed by the leadership of the European Union, of which Poland and Bulgaria are members.\r\n\r\n\u0022The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,\u0022 said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. \u0022This is unjustified and unacceptable.”\r\n\r\nThe Associated Press reported Wednesday that Russia\u0026#039;s move \u0022could eventually force targeted nations to ration gas and deal another blow to economies suffering from rising prices.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022It could also deprive Russia of badly needed income to fund its war effort,\u0022 the AP added. \u0022Natural gas prices in Europe shot up 25% before the market opened Wednesday and then eased off but remained significantly higher.\u0022\r\n\r\nFatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, tweeted Wednesday that \u0022Gazprom unilaterally cutting gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland today makes it clearer than ever that Europe needs to move quickly to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPrior to Russia\u0026#039;s full-scale assault on Ukraine, the European Union relied on Russia for around 40% of its gas supply and 27% of its oil imports, dependence that initially left E.U. members hesitant to target the Russian fossil fuel industry.\r\n\r\nLast month, the Biden administration announced that it would take steps to increase U.S. gas exports to E.U. nations as they attempt to wean themselves off Russian fossil fuels. The U.S. move, which climate advocates slammed as dangerous for the planet, could be a major boon for American fossil fuel companies as they seize upon the war in Ukraine to expand their operations and boost profits.\r\n\r\nOne recent analysis estimated U.S. oil and gas corporations are poised to rake in windfall profits of up to $126 billion this year as Russia\u0026#039;s attack on Ukraine continues with no end in sight.\r\n\r\nThe Intercept reported earlier this week that U.S. fossil fuel lobbyists are hard at work exploiting Russia\u0026#039;s war on Ukraine to bolster their long-sought plans to increase fracked gas production and export capacity despite years of local opposition to such projects—and their role in accelerating the climate crisis.\r\n\r\n\u0022The unfolding crisis is now a common—and effective—talking point for corporate interest groups seeking regulatory relief,\u0022 the outlet noted.