The Russian-German pipeline Nord Stream 2 is 95% ready and its construction can be fully completed at any time. Of course, in connection with the sanctions imposed by the United States against the companies involved in the construction of the gas pipeline, there are still problems with insurance and NS2 certification (without which the beginning of its work is impossible). However, the attention of all players is drawn today not so much to the American sanctions, but to the position of official Berlin, which believes that the scandalous gas pipeline, in any case, should be launched.
Six months ago, Germany’s position was categorical and uncontested, and Washington was accused by Berlin of gross interference in the internal affairs of the European Union. In recent months, the statements of the Federal Chancellor and other politicians have become more cautious and conciliatory neutral. Briefly summarizing, A. Merkel insists that Germany is neither a political ally nor an economic lobbyist for Russia, and NS2 is a purely rational project that meets the goals of diversification of energy supplies for the EU in general and Germany in particular.
Of course, no one expected such a blatant lie from the leading politician of the Old Continent, who, since 2012, has been convincing the leaders of the EU member states of the need of unconditional acceptance for social maintenance the thousands of refugees from Africa and the Middle East. At the same time, A. Merkel used such categories as humanitarian values, protection of democratic foundations, respect for human rights and freedoms. It is noteworthy that the most harsh dialogue on the EU migration policy arose between Germany and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which refused to accept refugees, justifying their decision with their own financial and economic problems. Then German politicians tried to shame their colleagues from CEE, claiming that EU membership means not only careful spending of budget funds, but also the protection of universal human values and democratic freedoms.
Nevertheless, when a discussion arose about the political inexpediency of NS2 pipeline construction, the German government “suddenly forgot” about democracy and its values. In response to calls from Poland, Slovakia, the Baltic States and Ukraine (an associate member of the EU) not to start the NS2 construction due to a number of serious reasons, German politicians tried to convince everyone that they were guided exclusively by purely economic categories and asked not to go deep during a substantive conversation around the pipeline into such lofty and abstract matters as the values of Western (Euro-Atlantic) civilization and the rebuff to Russian authoritarianism.
In their opposition to NS2, the countries of CEE, the Baltic States and Ukraine (which the United States later joined) provided the following arguments:
– the project is incompatible with the general policy of diversification of energy sources for the EU, since already now a third of natural gas supplies to the EU come from Russia. Naturally, after the launch of NS2, Russia’s share in the EU gas market will increase even more;
– the project is incompatible with the policy of demonopolization. Thus, NS2 violates EU legislation, namely – the Third Energy Package (directed against any monopolies and requiring for the third parties access to the operation of pipelines, gas distribution networks and underground gas storage facilities);
– the project will lead to a tangible increase in the lobbying capabilities of the Gazprom in the EU;
– the project will lead to a significant increase in the profit of the Gazprom. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that in an authoritarian country, Gazprom is not a classic joint stock company, but a “wallet company” for the President of the Russian Federation and his clique. Accordingly, the growth of Gazprom’s profits will not lead to the gasification of remote regions of Russia (the Urals, Siberia, the Far East), but to the strengthening of V. Putin’s personalist regime and the financing of his aggressive foreign policy;
– based on the previous paragraph, the launch of NS2 strengthens Russia and automatically increases tensions in a number of post-Soviet states: the Baltic countries, Belarus, Ukraine (Crimea, Donbass), Moldova (Transnistria), Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh), Georgia (Abkhazia, South Ossetia), Kazakhstan (northern areas);
– Ukraine must be considered separately. First, the cumulative use of the NS1 and NS2 pipelines (could pump 110 billion cubic meters per year) will allow the Russian Federation to completely abandon the services of the Ukrainian gas transportation system. In this case, Kyiv will lose $ 2 billion in revenues annually from the transit of Russian gas, which, of course, is extremely unpleasant for the weak Ukrainian economy. In addition, Kyiv will stop maintaining its GTS in proper technical condition. But the latter is extremely disadvantageous for the entire EU, since the situation may change, for example, due to the growth of industry or the decommissioning of a number of nuclear power plants within the framework of the “green” policy. If the needs of the EU countries in gas increase, the capacity of the existing pipelines will not be enough and then the (non-working) Ukrainian GTS will be urgently needed.
Secondly, in Kyiv, there are not unfounded fears that if Ukraine ceases to be an important transit country for the Russian gas, the Russian Armed Forces will cease to be limited to the East and South of Ukraine, and will begin a full-scale attack on their former colony, which is desperately trying to escape from the “iron embrace” of yesterday metropolis. In this situation, Washington states that it will strongly support Ukraine as its ally – in particular, it will oppose the implementation of NS2 project. But Germany, being a member of the international negotiation format “Normandy Four” (designed to resolve the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine), stubbornly ignores the current reality;
– in general, NS2, being a project of an aggressive neo-imperialist Russian Federation, poses a threat to EU foreign policy, as well as to the security policy of NATO and the European Union. Against this background, the former head of Polish diplomacy, Radoslaw Sikorski, quite correctly called the agreement between Moscow and Berlin on NS2 “the modern Molotov-Ribbentrop pact”.
Responsing to the argument about the hypothetical shortage of gas for the internal needs of Germany, current Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki proposed to the German government to use gas from the capacities (both existing and potential) in Poland. Firstly, we are talking about the already operating gasification terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Baltic port of Świnoujście. Today it provides 5 billion cubic meters per year, and it will soon be expanded to 8.3 billion cubic meters, and, if necessary, its regasification capacity can be increased to 10 billion cubic meters annually. This terminal has been successfully receiving gas from Norway, Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria and the USA for several years.
Secondly, now Poland is building another gas terminal in the bay of the port of Gdansk (the so-called FSRU – Floating Storage Regasification Unit) with a capacity of up to 2 billion cubic meters.
Thirdly, Warsaw and Copenhagen keep laying the Baltic Pipe on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, which will deliver gas from fields on the Norwegian shelf to Denmark and Poland. The technical launch of the gas pipeline is scheduled for October 1, 2022, and the start of commercial supplies – for January 1, 2023. The annual capacity of the pipeline will be 10 billion cubic meters, and all excess gas can be exported to Germany or to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine. At the same time, the European Commission officially recognized that the creation of this gas pipeline is in line with the goals of the EU energy policy (increased competition, integration of gas markets, increased reliability of supply, low emissions) and allocated € 266.8 million for the Baltic Pipe project.
Obviously, Poland is unlikely to have too much gas surplus, but, as a kind of safety for German consumers, gas from Poland can undoubtedly be used. In addition, there are also LNG terminals in the vicinity of Germany – in Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Klaipeda (Lithuania). In the end, A. Merkel gave the green light for the construction of own LNG terminal in the port of Hamburg. Therefore, it is not a secret for anyone that the possibilities available to Germany are quite sufficient to satisfy domestic consumers, however, Germany would like not only to consume, but also to resell natural gas and receive huge dividends on the re-export.
The above arguments are loudly heard on international platforms, but German politicians carelessly ignore them and repeat, like mantras, phrases about “economic expediency”, “energy security” and “sovereign right to conduct domestic policy” with a straight face. The reasons for this behavior of representatives of German establishment are quite clear – they want to be even richer and even more influential. Not very loudly (but whispering on the sidelines) at international meetings they say that the launch of NS2 will lead to the following consequences:
– the gas price inside Germany will significantly decrease, and, in addition, Germany will be able to dispose of a large amount of surplus gas;
– Germany will get rid of such gas transit countries as Ukraine and Belarus (and the need to pay them for pumping gas), and will become the main transit country for other EU states. Instead of the Russia – Ukraine/Belarus – Central-Eastern Europe transit route another Russia – Germany – CEE route will appear;
– thanks to their extensive gas transmission systems and underground gas storage facilities that are under construction, Germany and Austria will turn into a central gas hub of the European Union with all the ensuing consequences: the ability to directly regulate gas prices within the EU, an increase in economic and political influence, and the receipt of super profits;
– after the launch of NS2, German gas companies will sooner or later oust their Dutch, Polish and Slovak competitors from the EU market;
– with a gradual increase in the energy dependence of the EU countries on gas supplies through Germany, there will be an inevitable increase in the strategic importance of Germany as the largest economy and a powerful political center on the entire Old Continent.
Thus, in truth, German politicians bow down to the altar of economic benefit and sacrifice the goals and values of the EU and NATO thereon, and also question the strength and effectiveness of the transatlantic ties between Europe and North America.