The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a project that is currently on standby. Albeit not for long. The pipeline will transfer gas from Russia, through the Baltic Sea and straight onto the German coast. This project has escalated the worries of people in Eastern Europe. Their primary concerns are that its construction emboldens Vladimir Putin. Who can then use the pipeline to bend the arms of former Soviet states which the pipeline would circumvent.
The pipeline connects Germany directly with Russian energy suppliers. And so Berlin is all in. The main proponent of the pipeline is Russia’s state owned Gazprom. Gazprom and Russian natural gas supply over one-third of Europe’s gas needs. Despite the sanctions placed on Russia over their involvement in Ukraine and Syria, the Europeans have few options. Russia is one of the largest natural gas suppliers in the world. And it is one of unfortunate circumstance Europe is on their border.
This issue has become a divisive one for the EU. Thankfully, some EU members aren’t going to let Germany control this debate. Merkel has voiced the opinion that negotiations on this issue are moot. Because besides a few legal issues, this is a private business dealing. Germany believes that the Nord Stream 2 could potentially secure EU energy security. This should not be surprising as Germany will be the main benefactor of any Nord Stream pipeline. According to a report from Reuters, thirteen EU members have stood up. And they have proposed to send the bloc’s executive to meet with Russia over some of the objections.
According to that same Reuters report, during a private and informal meeting, EU officials want to delay the pipeline past 2019. This will lessen Gazprom’s leverage on Ukraine, who have a pipeline that runs through Kiev. It is a key source of income for the country. Could EU officials be huffing smoke to reach that 2019 mark? Perhaps, but not likely.
This issue has potential to further divide Europe at a time it cannot afford to do so. With Putin becoming increasingly active in geopolitics, the EU must stand united. It is telling that the states opposed to this pipeline are mostly former Soviet states. Or states in close proximity to Russia. Because they have become accustomed to Russian meddling in their politics before. They are aware that if they are to give Russia a club, they may just use it to bash them.
It is hard to imagine Europe getting anything out of this deal besides the natural gas. Will building this pipeline remove any US imposed sanctions on Russia? No. The US is not reliant on Russian gas. Only less aggressive stances towards Ukraine and Syria will do that. Will Vladimir Putin reel himself in from these policies, despite the political capital he’s gained? No. Instead Gazprom will make their money, western Europe will get its gas, and the Eastern bloc is left in the cold. Literally.
Having control over multiple states’ gas supply is about as much leverage as you can get. Thus the decision to construct the pipeline should be taken with utmost caution. It may be the case that this pipeline is in the best interest of all Europeans. But considering the world as it is, the eastern European states are right to be wary.
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