Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 9 June 2021
U.S., Germany Continue to Deceive Ukraine over Nord Stream 2
Washington’s decision to waive some sanctions against Nord Stream 2, a move that in fact allows Russia to finish its gas project, was a bitter surprise for Ukraine. Washington and Berlin vowed to do their utmost to shield Kyiv against a blow from Nord Stream 2. But Kyiv should not believe in this as the United States and Germany have no clue how to dissuade Russia from using gas as a coercive weapon against Ukraine.
The decision of the Biden administration on Nord Stream 2 stirs up lively bipartisan controversy in U.S. Congress. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the U.S. decision to waive some sanctions at a hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. What matters most for the policy is an attempt to reach a compromise with Germany while Berlin is doing its utmost to finish the gas link. Blinken reiterated what Biden had said a few weeks earlier, arguing that as a practical matter, “the physical completion of the pipeline was a fait accompli.” Introducing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and Matthias Warnig would not change this anymore, according to Blinken. “I think we have an opportunity to make something positive out of a bad hand that we inherited when we took office,” he explained. Blinken told Congress that Washington secured a deal with the German side–– as Berlin sent a high-ranking negotiating team to discuss the project––under which both vowed to take action against Russian steps threatening security or economy of any country seeing the gas link as a peril to its interests. Blinken also told a hearing that Germany is discussing ways to compensate Ukraine for the financial loss it will suffer from the completion of Nord Stream 2. Yet he did not give details on how the U.S. and Germany could press on Russia if the country sought to turn the pipeline into a gas weapon, a possible plan that Vladimir Putin has unveiled towards Ukraine. The Russian president said Gazprom could even send more gas through Ukraine if only someone else was in power in the country. This is nothing but Moscow’s effort to use gas as a tool for exerting political pressure. As long as the United States refrained from giving its consent to complete Nord Stream 2, Moscow did not resort to similar blackmailing methods. The Kremlin now is confident, hence Putin’s words. Once Nord Stream 2 is finished and Russia could redirect most of the gas it now sends through Ukrainian transit to the new link, the West could no longer control the situation. The United States will lose its tool for “punishing” Moscow as it is difficult to imagine that Germany could drop some of its profits from importing Russian gas commodities via Nord Stream 2. There is no possibility to compensate Ukraine for the financial loss it will suffer from the completion of the gas link in the Baltic Sea. Another vulnerable state could be Poland, too, through which Russian gas flows run westwards. As there is a slim chance to offer financial compensation to transit countries, their energy security will be in peril once Nord Stream becomes operational.
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