Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 20 December 2021
Nord Stream 2 Under Special Protection
After talking to Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden said gas flows through Nord Stream 2 would be cut off if Russia invaded Ukraine. Nonetheless, Germany is not likely to bend to U.S. pressure. Having unfrozen the project, Biden has no longer any tool of pressure on the authorities in Berlin. Nord Stream 2 will not be a Western argument against Russia, as stated by the new Austrian chancellor.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken out against linking the operating permit for the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 to efforts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis. “Nord Stream 2 is a private sector project,” he told journalists after the EU summit in Brussels. Such a position is hardly surprising. Scholz made no mention of Nord Stream in his first keynote speech as a new chancellor in Bundestag on December 15. Germany is thus not interested in making Nord Stream 2 its political leverage, which is what Joe Biden promised after meeting Vladimir Putin on December 7. Yet Berlin and Washington did not agree on a set of conditions under which it could be possible to cut gas flows through Nord Stream 2. None of them specified the scope of Russian aggression that could trigger a tit-for-tat move from Germany. What Scholz has said recently confirms that Berlin sought to remain idle in case of war in Europe’s east. This jeopardizes security guarantees for Ukraine that the United States and Germany discussed in July 2021 when both unlocked the completion of Nord Stream 2. Also, the July memorandum was vague and was by no means a binding document. The attitude of those who are in favor of Nord Stream 2 and closer cooperation with Russia is clear. They care little about Ukraine. During an interview with the German newspaper Welt, the new Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said that Nord Stream 2 was an important project that gives the European Union security of energy supply. “Nord Stream 2 is a European project that should not be used as a means of putting pressure on Moscow,” Nehammer said. Austrian energy company ÖMV has a stake in Nord Stream 2 while Gazprom holds considerable gas storage facilities in Austria.
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