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How Putin’s $11 billion pipeline split NATO and the EU at a time of crisis

The United States, United Kingdom, Ukraine and a number of European Union member states have fiercely opposed the pipeline ever because it was first introduced in 2015, warning the challenge would enhance Moscow’s affect in Europe.

According to specialists, that by itself is a win for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a nonpartisan analysis heart, mentioned Moscow has benefited from the drama round the pipeline. “Everything about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been a victory for Russia,” she instructed CNN.

“Given that Russia’s intention is to split everyone, in the event that they’re looking for to interrupt aside unity in the European Union and in NATO, this pipeline has been a fantastic vessel.”

For years, each Russia and Germany argued that the pipeline is solely a enterprise enterprise and has nothing to do with politics.

But in central and jap Europe, the place fuel provides from Russia play an important function in energy technology and house heating, few matters are extra political than vitality safety. With pure fuel costs already close to a file excessive, many concern additional stress may trigger extra ache to European customers.

And whereas Russia has denied utilizing vitality to place stress on Europe, the International Energy Agency has blamed Moscow for contributing to the European fuel costs crisis by reducing provide.
The US and Europe are making ready for the chance that Russia may weaponize its fuel exports to Europe to retaliate for any attainable sanctions. The Biden administration has been in common discussions with a quantity of international locations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia about stepping up their production of liquified natural gas to Europe in the occasion that a Russian invasion of Ukraine leads to gas shortages, a number of US officers aware of the discussions instructed CNN.
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As Russia’s greatest fuel buyer, Germany had been reluctant to make use of the pipeline to place stress on Moscow. Less than two weeks in the past, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht warned towards dragging Nord Stream 2 into the battle.

Yet as tensions constructed up between Russia and the West over Ukraine, the declare has been quietly dropped by the Germans. Under stress from the US, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock acknowledged final week the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could possibly be included in a bundle of sanctions towards Russia over its involvement in Ukraine.

At the similar time, the US has considerably scaled again its vocal opposition to the pipeline. Earlier this month, the US Senate voted down legislation from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to sanction entities associated with Nord Stream 2. The essential argument from the Biden administration was that sanctions on the pipeline would undercut US efforts to discourage the Russian risk by giving the West much less leverage.

“Putin wants to see Nord Stream 2. If somehow it’s killed before any potential invasion, he has one less reason not to invade Ukraine,” US Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez mentioned.

Pipe systems are seen at the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 in Lubmin, Germany.

Ukraine and different jap European international locations have warned the new pipeline may make the area extra weak to Russia’s whims.

Disputes over vitality costs have plagued the relationship between Russia and Ukraine ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with Russia reducing its provides of fuel to Ukraine on quantity of events. At the second, Russia wants Ukraine, as a result of great amount of the fuel it sells to Europe nonetheless flows to the relaxation of the continent by Ukraine’s territory.

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By bypassing Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 would make it simpler for Russia to isolate Ukraine.

Making the scenario much more complicated is Germany’s choice to not provide weapons to Ukraine. While a number of different NATO international locations together with the US, UK and the Czech Republic mentioned they’d ship weapons to the country, Germany has to this point refused, sparking criticism from Ukrainian officers.
Controversial remarks by the chief of German navy Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach about Putin “probably” deserving respect and suggesting Ukraine had permanently lost the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea to Russia have solely added to the tensions. While Schönbach has resigned over the feedback, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk mentioned on Sunday the German authorities “has to change its course towards Kyiv” in an effort to “restore full trust in German politics.”
Runners pass pipes for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline at Mukran Port in Sassnitz, Germany.

The pipeline is particularly invaluable to Russia, which depends on oil and fuel exports for over 40% of its authorities revenues. If operational, it could ship 55 billion cubic meters of fuel per 12 months immediately from Russia to Europe. Gazprom, the Russian state-owned firm that owns the pipeline, mentioned its common export worth was $280 per 1,000 cubic meters of fuel in 2021, which suggests the new pipeline could possibly be value greater than $15 billion a 12 months.

Gazprom has already invested some $11 billion into the challenge.

“The West needs every possible form of leverage that it can get to dissuade Russia from invading Ukraine,” Berzina mentioned, including that not sanctioning the pipeline now means it could possibly be used as leverage in the future. “Russia’s ambitions right now are huge and the explicit asks it has made of the West on returning troops to where they were in the early 90s and to close the door on NATO expansion, these are not in line with the West’s values, so the West really can’t give Russia what it wants there.”

Andrey Kortunov, director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, mentioned Moscow views the Nord Stream challenge as a take a look at of the EU’s strategic autonomy from the United States.

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“If the Nord Stream 2 project goes down the drain, which is possible, it would serve as a confirmation of this perception that Europe is not a reliable partner and you cannot work with the European Union because they cannot agree on anything and they cannot make any decision. So if you want something to be accomplished, you should go to Washington,” he mentioned.

Russia has repeatedly warned the West to not drag Nord Stream 2 into the political crisis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mentioned makes an attempt to politicize the Nord Stream 2 challenge had been “counterproductive.”

But whereas the pipeline is extraordinarily invaluable to Putin, it’s uncertain whether or not it may play the decisive function in persuading him to reduce any plans to cross Ukraine’s border.

“If it fails, it will be a big loss for Gazprom and the Russian economy, but it’s not like the Russians will say okay, you can go ahead with the NATO enlargement, but as long as Nord Stream 2 is operational, that’s fine,” Kortunov mentioned.

“The question is what is [Putin’s] ultimate aim? He’s got the money, the currency reserves that Russia has saved, it can afford to lose money right now … is the economic relationship, the pipeline, a cost he’s willing to pay?” Berzina added.

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.



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