Germany: Gas pipeline leaves Ukraine in the cold
Thanks to the Danes, the disastrous Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will soon be completed, said Zbigniew Kuzmiuk in Poland’s WPolityce.pl. After a two-year review process, Denmark last week approved the laying of 91 miles of pipes in its territorial waters—the final stage of the 765-mile-long energy project. Nord Stream 2, which runs under the Baltic Sea close to the existing Nord Stream pipeline, will double the amount of Russian natural gas coming into Europe by the northern route to 3.9 trillion cubic feet a year. It will also make the European Union–bound pipelines that currently run through Ukraine, Poland, and Slovakia virtually obsolete. If Russia stops exporting gas to Europe through this southern route, Ukraine alone will lose more than $2 billion a year in transit fees. Moscow has previously used those pipelines to bully its neighbor, shutting off gas to Ukraine and only turning it back on when customers further west complained of shortages. Now there will be nothing to stop Russia from halting the flow of gas to Ukraine at will. This project, wholly owned by Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom, can only threaten Europe’s “foreign and security policy.”
Ukraine doesn’t blame Denmark, said Sergey Fursa in Ukraine’s Gazeta.ua. In fact, we’re grateful. Russia would have completed Nord Stream 2 eventually by going around Danish waters. Had the Danes caved earlier, or said they’d never grant approval, the Ukrainian pipelines would likely already be “scrap metal.” But by deliberately extending its dithering, “small but proud Denmark” ensured that Nord Stream 2 will not be operational until after this winter. So when Russia’s current transit contract with Ukraine ends on Dec. 31, Moscow will have to negotiate a new deal in order to fulfill its obligations to European customers. The Kremlin wants a one-year contract, while Kiev “needs a long-term contract to guarantee transit revenue for the next 10 years.” Let the “gas war” begin.
Despite Nord Stream 2’s political drawbacks, Germans had good reason to support it, said Konrad Schuller in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany). They will get transit fees and jobs by having the gas flow through Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania and on to the rest of Europe. Germany will also get crucial leverage over Russia, which needs partners. If Europe doesn’t provide them, President Vladimir Putin will turn to China, “and you lose all influence.” Still, we shouldn’t downplay the dangers. Russia has already gobbled up Ukraine’s province of Crimea, and it has been supporting a separatist war in eastern Ukraine for five years. Now it can escalate that war “without risking the destruction of its export lines.”
Yet Ukraine is not alone, said Isabelle Labeyrie in RadioFrance.fr. The U.S. has threatened sanctions against companies involved in building the pipeline—both Russian and European—and the EU is drawing up new rules that would require Russia to transit at least some of its gas through Ukraine. The “economic and geopolitical battle is just beginning.” ■