The Nord Stream 2 saga is not over

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It may be an embarrassment now, but with $11bn spent you would be brave to bet against the pipeline eventually carrying Russian gas to the West.

Somewhat incongruously, Germany has ended up at the forefront of the new wave of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime. On 22 February, in response to Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk’s Republics and their claim to the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, announced that he had halted the formal certification of Nord Stream 2. Laid under the waters of the Baltic, the recently completed gas pipeline has the capacity to carry 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to western Europe.

The situation is incongruous because hitherto Berlin had been less forthright in its pronouncements over Ukraine than other countries. Until recently the German government’s official position was that Nord Stream 2 was a “commercial project”, a line echoed by Moscow. That stance provoked outrage from those asking for a more confrontational attitude towards Putin. For Nord Stream 2 to be put on hold sends a signal that Germany will not stand in the way of aggressive sanctions on the part of Europe as a whole. It also relieves pressure on Berlin. The pipeline was on track to be certified for operations in the second half of 2022. Scholz’s intervention avoids the glaring incongruity of opening a new connection to Russia as Putin’s tanks occupy tracts of Ukraine.

Nord Stream 2 may have become an embarrassment, but it is no aberration. In its current form, Germany’s dependence on Russian energy dates to the Cold War. In the 1970s, as West Germany sought a better modus vivendi with the Soviet Union and thus some prospect of eventual reunification with East Germany, it entered into increasingly ambitious oil and gas deals. By 2020 Germany was getting 65 per cent of its imported gas from Russia. Russian gas powered German electricity generation and heated German homes. As well as gas, 34 per cent of Germany’s crude oil imports came from Russia in 2021, as did 53 per cent of the hard coal burned by German power stations and blast furnaces. The rest of the EU is not far behind Germany in terms of dependence on Russian energy. 

Read the full article at The New Statesman

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