With one hand, Germany is solidarizing with the UK and the Western world, as it has expelled four Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. The German Foreign Ministry said that they “did not take this decision lightly,” explaining it, in particular, by a lack of cooperation with the Russian Federation on chemical weapons. Why did not they take it lightly?
Perhaps because literally the next day, the German authorities issued a permit for the construction and operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the exclusive economic zone of Germany in the Baltic Sea. The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of the Federal Republic of Germany has not identified any obstacles to granting the request for laying a 31-kilometer-long pipeline along the seabed. Thus, it is reported that “all necessary permits are now in place for the German route section, which has an overall length of 85 kilometers.”
The press service of Nord Stream 2 AG also states that “the national permitting procedures in the other four countries along the route – Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark – are proceeding as planned. Further permits are expected to be issued in the coming months, before construction starts in 2018.”
However, not everything is as clearcut as the company claims. It is known that back in November last year, Denmark passed a law that would allow it to prohibit the laying down of the Nord Stream 2 on its territory. Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland also came forward to oppose the construction of the gas pipeline. Representatives of these countries have repeatedly argued that the Nord Stream 2 will increase the EU’s dependence on Gazprom, which already supplies about one-third of the bloc’s gas needs. Recently, the US also informed companies working with the Nord Stream 2 of the threat of sanctions.
Let us recall that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will pass through the Baltic Sea, connecting suppliers in Russia with consumers in Europe, and its length will reach more than 1,200 kilometers. It is predicted that the combined capacity of the two gas pipelines will allow 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to be delivered from the coast of Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. The cost of the project is estimated at almost 10 billion euros.
Serhii SOLODKYI, first deputy director of the New Europe Center:
“This is an eternal question facing the liberal world, which on the one hand advocates the protection of human rights, and on the other, cooperates with dictatorial regimes. Unfortunately, Germany has been no exception in this regard. A country that is a leader and an example of success in many areas for the entire continent still is no model in this regard. We know the arguments of the German side, they say this is due to purely economic considerations, and there is nothing political about it, but Russia uses the energy lever as a weapon to achieve its political objectives. Such steps on the part of Germany, unfortunately, give ammunition to the Russian side as it argues that the EU is not united, that the West can easily be bought and corrupted.
“We have seen how Russia has repeatedly used the gas weapon against Ukraine. We understand that the gas factor plays a lesser or greater role when the capitals of the EU hesitate whether to strengthen and extend sanctions against Russia. The issue of support for Ukraine is important to us. Despite the fact that Russia has repeatedly tried to use the gas lever during the war in order to discredit Ukraine as a responsible gas transit country, this country has proved, sometimes at a high price for itself, that it is responsible, and thus has taken away any trump cards Russia could hope to obtain in this regard.
“Let us hope that the moment will eventually come when Germany will think better of it. Although I understand that with every passing day, it will be increasingly difficult to backtrack on the Nord Stream 2 story. Let us hope that other countries of Europe and the world will provide convincing reasons so that the German government and citizens change their decision, no matter how profitable it is in financial terms, because more than money is at stake. Germany and the continent as a whole will lose much more when the Nord Stream 2 project is completed. Then there will be losses both political and financial. By the way, speaking of the financial dimension, this gas pipeline does not in any way fit the EU strategic plans for diversification of energy resources. On the contrary, we are witnessing the increasing dependence of the EU on a single supplier.
“‘Schroederization’ represents the higher, overt degree of cynicism and corruption. And in this situation, Germany is trying to convince others of the reasons it acts the way it does, and persuade them that it will not allow the gas pipeline to be used for political purposes. But it is a quite correct assessment. These steps raise more questions, casting doubt on the reputation of the whole of the EU. This applies not only to the Nord Stream 2, but also to the fact that far from all countries have solidarized with Britain in expelling Russian diplomats. This sends a signal to the Kremlin that believes that it has only to wait a little longer, and the West will make the concessions Russia needs by itself, which belief does not exactly help to resolve this conflict and the crisis of the global order.
“I think that not all is lost and the attention of the world’s mass media and non-governmental organizations encourages the elites to be more responsible in their decision-making and not to sell their reputation for energy resources or other kinds of benefits.
“We are still witnessing an internal political transformation in Europe, where not all countries have realized the seriousness of the challenges and risks facing the world in connection with Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine and many Western democracies. Many countries still naively believe that it is possible to achieve some results through appeasement, without realizing that it only generates more insolence and aggression on the part of the Kremlin.”