Criticism of the Nord Stream 2 project routinely misses the bigger picture of EU’s lower carbon targets, Groningen’s impending switch-off and Russia’s own dependence on natural gas exports to Europe.
Pipeline projects by their very nature ought to be functional, reliable and crucial pieces of energy infrastructure built mundanely away from prying eyes, but Nord Stream 2 – the 1,200 km undersea pipeline project aimed at doubling Russian gas capacity to Germany, and by extension to Northern Europe – has proved to be anything but.
The project might be financed by a consortium comprising of Russia’s Gazprom and its five backers, Uniper and Wintershall of Germany, OMV of Austria, Engie of France, and Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil major, but its political ownership rests with Germany.
With the first 30 kms of the pipeline extension to the original Nord Stream having been laid, the criticism is getting louder. The primary moan – that Berlin is becoming “dependent” on Moscow for its energy needs – is not new, but the critics’ roster has changed, not least, to include US President Donald Trump, who often likes conducting international diplomacy via Twitter.
Trump belatedly joins a plethora of US senators threatening sanctions against all parties involved. Several Eastern European governments, especially Poland, and proponents of rival southern European pipeline projects have joined ranks with the Americans.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has even been buffeted by those on her side. Manfred Weber, head of her centre-right leaning EPP group in the European Parliament, and Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, have been vocal in their opposition too, preferring to send her letters of complaints rather than fire tweets.
And if all that was not enough, while the first bit of pipeline is being laid undersea, the scheduled works could not have come at a worse time with tension between Russia and Ukraine at its highest. The recent seizure by Russian forces of three Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews in the Kerch Strait at the entrance to the Sea of Azov, following Moscow’s Crimean annexation has complicated matters further.
Ukraine has always maintained that Nord Stream 2 is a Russian geopolitical tool packaged as energy infrastructure. Until the project comes onstream, much of Europe’s natural gas imported from Russia …
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