Why Nord Stream 2 is back in the spotlight

MOSCOW – Russian Opposition Leader Alexei A. Naval toxicity has revived a long-running quarrel over the nearly completed Russian natural-gas pipeline in Europe.

Casting for ways to register their displeasure over the poisoning, politicians in Germany and elsewhere have turned their back towards the $ 11 billion pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, today among the largest infrastructure projects in Europe Is one.

The 746-mile pipeline extends from the Russian coast under the Baltic Sea to Germany near St. Petersburg. When work was halted this year due to US restrictions, the pipe was almost complete; There is only a difference of 50 miles.

The project went ahead due to opposition from the US and most European countries, including Germany and France. The debate in Germany now is whether to reverse its long-standing support for the pipeline or even cancel it in retaliation for the poison – and costs Russian state-owned company Gazprom with European investors Allow to eat

“We only need to react with the same language that Putin understands the language of natural gas,” said Norbert Rötgen, head of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has strongly supported the project, although she has recently hinted at some moderation in her position. What is behind the controversy here?

Not necessary. Nord Stream 2 duplicates not only an existing pipeline under the Baltic, Nord Stream 1, but also a pipeline running from Russia through Ukraine and Belarus and into Eastern Europe. According to an analysis by Renaissance Capital, the Moscow investment bank, they are already in use and will last for years or decades.

The new pipeline has the capacity to ship 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, but the existing pipelines crossing Ukraine have 77 billion cubic meters of additional capacity and according to a contract, 102 billion cubic meters of additional capacity in two years from now Will be. Between the Ukrainian pipeline operator and Gazprom. With the completion of Nord Stream 2, almost all natural gas from Russia to Europe will arrive via pipelines under the Baltic Sea, or via another new underwater pipeline, Turkstream, under the Black Sea to the south.

Because for Moscow, which uses natural gas as a political tool as well as a source of profit, the big question is not how much gas goes to Europe, but how it gets there. Hence President Vladimir V. Transit routes are the most important consideration for Putin, who personally directs Russia’s energy policy.

In former Soviet states and Eastern Europe, local nobles are allowed to share in energy gains if they advance pro-Russian policies. If a leader tilts to the West, prices are sometimes cut or supply cut, as has happened twice in Ukraine.

The only problem with this approach is that Soviet-era pipelines supplying to those countries also send fuel to customers in Europe to the West. Tightening the screws over Ukraine or Bulgaria, he says, also affects Western Europe, creating a crisis situation that infects European capitals while cutting Russia’s income – almost from gas sales in Europe last year $ 48 billion.

The answer to Mr. Putin’s problem was to build pipelines bypassing Ukraine – Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2 and Turkstream – completely duplicating Ukrainian and Belarusian terrestrial pipelines.

As a result, when Nord Stream 2 is completed, Russia will have a new and powerful geopolitical device: an energy export system with multiple spigots that can be independently switched on or off, Ukraine or Belarus in January. Cutting to, for example, continuing shipments to Western Europe.

Gazprom denied ever using the gas politically and said it intended to use Nord Stream 2 in addition to the existing Ukrainian pipes. Gazprom has held Ukraine responsible for the bandh.

Ms. Merkel has justified her support for the pipeline under a comprehensive policy of trade with Russia and China, which provides trade over and above the sanctions alone.

Supporters of the pipeline in his party say that Russia is more dependent on natural gas revenue than Germany. Once the pipeline is commissioned, they say, Russia will be less likely to misbehave like a naval attack because such actions could lead to sanctions.

“Tying Russia into trade agreements will soften Russia’s behavior,” Kirsten Westfall, an analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said in a telephone interview.

Proponents also argue that less natural gas harmful to the environment than coal, which is less harmful to the environment, would help Germany transition to nuclear power. Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Ms. Merkel vowed to shut down all nuclear plants in the country.

The new pipeline would provoke Germany from a fuel shortage if the war in Ukraine escalated or if the transit of fuel was interrupted for some other reason.

Other than Germany and France, the United States and most European countries oppose the project for the exact reason that Russia wants. They see it as a tent of Russian influence creeping into Europe.

In the United States, opposition to Nord Stream 2 is one of the few bipartisan issues. The Obama administration opposed Ms. Merkel’s embrace of the project, and the Trump administration and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential candidate, wants to repeal it.

Russia is seen as operating at cross-objectives with broader Western policies seeking to isolate Russia for fighting in Ukraine, intervening in Syria, and focusing on Western elections.

Three Republican senators – Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – have proposed to toughen American opposition by imposing so-called secondary sanctions on German companies that aided in construction. Already, US sanctions have prevented the Swiss-Dutch company from laying pipes as the project was nearing completion.

In addition to its geopolitical concerns, the United States is also interested in expanding exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe.

Eight Eastern European countries have supported a petition opposing the pipeline, arguing that it makes them vulnerable to Russian energy blackmail.

Italy opposes this, analysts say, a matter of concern that crossing Russian gas through Germany instead of Ukraine could increase Berlin’s dominance in the European Union.

As a replacement for existing pipelines as a tool to bring in more energy, opponents say, it does little to help Germany transition to a nuclear-free future.

Benjamin Schmidt, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and a former US state department energy adviser, said in a telephone interview, “The idea is that it will replace nuclear power in some way.” “The truth of the matter is that there won’t be.”

Since the uprising in 2014, which favored Moscow’s president, Victor F. Yanukovych was overthrown, with the West pouring billions of dollars of foreign aid and military equipment into Ukraine to support its disintegration from Russia.

In view of this, critics of Nord Stream 2 have questioned what it means to deprive Ukraine of $ 2 billion in transit revenue, making Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian bullying.

Defenders of the project say that most of the profits from the Russian gas trade have disappeared in the pockets of politically connected oligarchs and pro-Russian politicians. Ukraine, they say, may actually benefit from closing that place of corruption.

As far as supplies go, Russia naturally needs to supply Ukraine with some natural gas. However, in the event of a cutoff, Ukraine currently has no way to completely replace those supplies from Europe.