Germany’s upcoming decision to certify the controversial Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 pipeline is fast emerging as a key element in high-stakes diplomatic efforts to prevent Moscow from invading Ukraine.
A delay or cancellation of the $11 billion project would have a significant impact on the Russian economy, causing a loss of US$3 billion in annual revenue.
It could also serve to divide Ukraine’s allies as Russia continues to increase pressure on the former Soviet bloc state.
Nord Stream 2 gives German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new government “some advantage” over Moscow, said Matthew Schmidt, an associate professor and national security expert at the University of New Haven, Connecticut.
“They can take advantage in a way that works closely with the rest of NATO,” he said. “If they do it in a way that doesn’t work together with NATO, that could be a problem. They could put NATO in a bind.”
During a recent meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Scholz indicated that his country may reconsider the project “if there is a military intervention against Ukraine”.
But the German government is under enormous pressure to cushion rising natural gas prices – and Nord Stream 2 could heat 26 million homes in the country.
Playing ‘Pipeline Cards’
Schmidt said that until the deadlock over Ukraine is resolved peacefully, Russia will be allowed to walk away with victory. He said the US did the same thing to end the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when it withdrew its missiles from Turkey.
Schmidt said he believed Germany would stick to the “pipeline card until the end”.
Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2 remains a source of division and irritation among Germany’s allies.
The pipeline is at the center of a longstanding disagreement between the United States and Germany. About four years ago, then-US President Donald Trump launched a summit of NATO leaders by attacking the project, warning that it would hold Germany “captive” to Russian economic interests.
Nord Stream 2 was pulled back into the center of allied politics earlier this month, when Republicans in Washington pushed for a bill that would ban businesses involved in the project — despite warnings from President Joe Biden that it would Such sanctions would damage relations with Germany. critical juncture. Senate Democrats defeated the bill.
Ukraine stands to lose significant transit revenue when an existing Russian pipeline crossing its territory is shut down to make way for Nord Stream 2. Kiev lobbied the US Senate to impose sanctions, while Germany argued against them.
Germany has also upset Ukraine by halting the sale of some defensive weapons to the government in Kiev, which is desperately campaigning in the international arms market for high-tech systems to counter a potential invasion.
Schmidt said no one should be surprised at Berlin’s warning because the country’s export licensing policy places strict conditions on the end use of military equipment.
The politics of great power has not looked back since the Cold War, said Roland Paris, a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa and a former adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Putin ‘turns up the heat’
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “stress-testing” the NATO alliance, looking for any divisions, real or perceived, among allies.
“Putin is resilient and opportunistic. He has turned up the heat to see what happens,” Paris said. “If he succeeds in undermining the political unity of the NATO alliance, it will be a great achievement for him.”
He said Germany was “working” to counter the Russian threat by using its energy supply as a weapon.
“There have been voices in Germany who have said that Nord Stream 2 should continue regardless of the crisis”, Paris said.
NATO allies are calling for unity as they face a massive build-up of Russian troops on three sides of Ukraine, and as Moscow demands that the coalition withdraw the deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe.
Russia’s demands – including an outright rejection of Ukraine’s bid to join NATO – have been rejected by the United States and its allies. Recently, Washington put 8,500 US troops on high alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe.
Paris said it was time to send reinforcements to Ukraine’s allies. He ridiculed Moscow’s claim that sending additional forces represented an escalation of the crisis.
“It’s a little rich, [Russia] After invading a sovereign country, and now there are more than 100,000 soldiers ready to attack [Ukraine] And then to say that NATO reinforcements are somehow a source of provocation,” Paris said, referring to the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea.