Nord Stream 2 – Attempt to blackmail Putin – Economy

The Russian leadership wants to put the Nord Stream 2 pipeline into operation. The Kremlin sees the shortage of natural gas in Europe as an opportunity to push the project forward despite sanctions.

Moscow/Berlin (dpa) – Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin is enjoying the moment to the fullest: With a thin smile, he says that Europeans are to blame for their gas crisis because they prefer to rely on alternative rather than traditional energy sources and then sanctions on Russia.

However, wind and solar power is not enough, nor are the existing pipeline routes due to necessary repairs. “But as far as natural gas is concerned, we still have a complete route – that’s Nord Stream 2. We can put it into operation,” Putin said on the sidelines of a summit in faraway Iran.

Against the backdrop of the dispute over a turbine for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and uncertainty over whether and to what extent gas can be supplied through pipelines to be laid in the Baltic Sea in the future, this sounds like a tempting offer. But only from the Kremlin’s point of view.

Like a negotiator in a bargain, the Russian President in Tehran urges the Europeans to hurry. Act quickly, because half of the resources intended for Nord Stream 2 are already planned for domestic demand and our own gas processing, says Putin. He pointed this out to Chancellor Olaf Solz by phone a month and a half ago, after dismissing the issue of commissioning Nord Stream 2 as premature.

Moscow insists that Nord Stream 2 is a purely commercial project. For years, this view was shared by the federal government. Claims – including by US President Donald Trump – that Germany is too dependent on Russia for pipeline energy have been dismissed by Berlin, pointing out that the White House chief is primarily interested in more sales of his own energy sources.

But of course, Nord Stream 2 was never linked solely to financial interests. For Moscow, it was already a matter of making the transit route through Ukraine redundant with this pipeline, which, like its predecessor Nord Stream 1, was supposed to bring 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Vyborg, Russia via the Baltic Sea to calm down. Lubmin in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Externally, the Russian leadership justified this by bypassing an unsafe transit country. But above all, the unwanted neighbor should be cut off from the billions of annual income that was due to extracting the raw material.

How does Germany react?

Putin bit back with his statement that Nord Stream 2 must now be commissioned in Berlin. The federal government reiterated its position Wednesday: the pipeline is not certified and therefore not legally permitted.

Politicians in the traffic light alliance became clearer: “Considering our real challenges, we are not dealing with such a clumsy attempt at blackmail,” said Lucas Kohler, Vice President of the FDP. “The issue of Nord Stream 2 has been settled for a good reason – and that reason is in the Kremlin.”

For a long time, Berlin kept Nord Stream 2 politically under wraps despite major international criticism. On February 22, even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Berlin put the pipeline on hold, which has been highly controversial, especially in the US.

Even with the possibility of Nord Stream 2 becoming operational, Germany would likely break the international alliance against Russia. The federal government will also reverse its own ambitions: namely to become less dependent on Russian gas as soon as possible. However, this takes time.

On Wednesday, the federal government was fascinated to see if Putin would turn the gas tap back on after maintenance on Nord Stream 1. Behind the scenes, there was talk of Putin’s sneaky game of “cat and mouse” in development. A gas shortage could have serious consequences for the German economy, with companies and consumers already groaning under the price boom.

The top priority for the federal government is to get through the winter. To do this, the memory must be as full as possible. The company’s first own terminals for the import of liquefied natural gas are scheduled to become operational at the end of the year. Coal-fired power plants are said to be out of stock to save gas. It also appeals to companies and private households to save energy.

The Kremlin sees Europe as weak

The fact that Putin is still so adamant about the commissioning of Nord Stream 2 can be explained by the self-image with which Moscow started the war against Ukraine and faced the subsequent sanctions from the West: Russia counts on maintaining its impact strength and have better staying power. Europe, which is considered feminine, will give in and lift sanctions if the living standards of its citizens fall, they are convinced.

Again and again Putin tries to push the Europeans to the point where sanctions don’t work. And it has repeatedly forced Berlin to back down under enormous pressure. For example, Germany has complied with the rule that natural gas will be paid into a ruble account at a Russian state bank in the future. Fearing a bottleneck in natural gas supplies, the German government also made concessions to Moscow on the turbine delivery issue, which is effectively sanctions, and asked Canada for an exemption.

By the same token, Putin is now hoping that the West will respond to his extortionate demand that the end of the embargo on Ukrainian grain exports be tied to the easing of sanctions against Russia. Or that, contrary to all previous statements, Nord Stream 2 will still be commissioned.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220720-99-93402/3

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