For apparently no substantial reason, Germany seems to be risking its high political and moral reputation, for the sake of an apparently corrupt gas pipeline sweetheart deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Not to mention that last year’s heavy changes in the global energy markets have made the Russian deal obsolete, as well as damaging to European unity.
Putin’s objective is obvious. He intends to lock in revenue for Gazprom, while pursuing geopolitical goals: cutting supplies, raising prices, deepening Western Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and crushing Ukraine’s ability to resist his destabilization campaign.
Yet, Angela Merkel continues to consider the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a viable economic project, although natural gas consumption in the European Union has fallen by 21 % over the past decade and the existing Gazprom pipeline under the Baltic Sea is now operating at half of its capacity.
Of course, one may think of subjective explanations like ex-German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s role as head of the board of directors at Gazprom’s Nord Stream subsidiary. To remember that Schroeder signed the deal with Putin for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in 2005.
And not very surprisingly, Nord Stream 2 is strongly defended by the vice chancellor of Merkel’s coalition government, Sigmar Gabriel, a major figure in Schroeder’s Social Democratic Party.
Of course, it may not be just about the money, but also about Germany’s geopolitics of conciliating with Putin, who is let to win his economic war on Europe in other words.
But this means a surprising lack of solidarity from Germany toward its Eastern neighbors and its Western allies.
As Italy’s Matteo Renzi and other European Union leaders pointed out at the E.U. summit in Brussels, Nord Stream 2 would seriously undermine the E.U.’s efforts to form a common energy market that is pledged to move toward decarbonization.
It also may be no coincidence that Gazprom’s escalation of pipeline positioning comes as Russia’s military campaign in the eastern part of Ukraine seems to be faltering and, therefore, Putin must either win or deal.
In this context, there could be one solution for the US administration: provide Ukraine with emergency energy supplies if needed, especially given the fact that the U.S. law was recently changed, to permit the export of oil and low-cost natural gas and enhance relationship with Merkel, to make sure that Germany lives up to its own high standards of behavior and solidarity with allies, by abandoning the backing of a strategically dangerous pipeline.