Nordstream II: it’s business, not personal

Nordstream II: it’s business, not personal


“Resistance to Nordstream II comes from all sides. European leaders criticise the increased dependency on Russian gas and internally, the Green Party and other interest groups attempted to block the project for environmental reasons. Poland fears that Northstream II will slowly erode the security dividend of its position as a transit country. German dependency on Polish imports guarantees their support if tensions between Russia and Poland increase.”

By Dorien Van Dam

A potential pipeline between Germany and Russia is causing a European political headache. The construction of the +/- 1,200 km pipeline is a complex international process, requiring cooperation between Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The authority to start construction rests with these countries. At the time of writing, the pipeline has not received Danish formal approval [1]. Poland and Trump are outspoken opponents of the pipeline, citing an increased reliance on Russian imports as a threat [2]. Germany appears to be walking a thin line, so why does Berlin insist on the project?

Pipeline
Nordstream II is a planned gas connector between Germany and Russia via the Baltic Sea. An existing connector, Nordstream I, was finished in 2011, but cannot be used at full capacity. This is due to the Third EU Energy Package, aimed at promoting competition and increasing energy diversification. It intends to prevent overreliance on a single source of gas by limiting imports [3]. Currently, Germany imports a large share of its gas from Russia through third countries such as Poland and Ukraine. Considering the relationship between Poland and Russia, the Gas Wars in Ukraine (2005–06, 2009 and 2014–15), and the annexation of Crimea; Germany, understandably, prefers a direct connection to its source. By securing Germany’s gas supply the country will not become collateral damage or invested in someone else’s conflict. Berlin does not directly perceive import dependency on Russia as a risk, but rather as a part of their aim to become a central energy hub based on exchange and interdependence [4]. In short: this is business, not politics.

… or pipedream?
Resistance to Nordstream II comes from all sides. European leaders criticise the increased dependency on Russian gas and internally, the Green Party and other interest groups attempted to block the project for environmental reasons [5]. Poland fears that Northstream II will slowly erode the security dividend of its position as a transit country. German dependency on Polish imports guarantees their support if tensions between Russia and Poland increase. Without this ‘leverage’ over the Germans, the Polish feel their bargaining position is weakened vis-à-vis Russia. Economically, Poland is concerned about the loss in transit fees and the fear that the construction of Nordstream II will block the harbour entrance in Świnoujście for larger vessels. This would in turn hamper Poland’s diversification of energy supplies through the import of liquefied natural gas [6]. Internally, the project is facing resistance from environmental actors because Nordstream II will affect biodiversity in the Baltic Sea. The pipeline’s opponents have also pointed out that the bottom of the Baltic Sea houses historic ordnance, which are remnants of the Second World War. Old and potentially unstable weaponry combined with the transportation of highly flammable gas is an understandable concern.

No(rd)stream II
Currently, all eyes are on Denmark, who holds the key to the construction of Nordstream II. The European Union is paying very close attention to the project’s development in the light of the European Energy Union objectives (EEU explained). Germany, eager to move forward with the project, will have to convince them that Russian gas is good business and not a geopolitical move away from the Eastern European states.

References:
[1] Nordstream 2 (2018). Project Rationale. Accessed 12 July 2018 at 
[https://www.nord-stream2.com/project/rationale/].
[2] Georgi Gotev, (2018). “Trump begins NATO summit with Nord Stream 2 attack.” 
Euractiv. Accessed 12 July 2018 at 
[https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/trump-begins-nato-summit-with-nord-stream-2-attack/].
[3] Tareq Baconi (2017). “Pipelines and Pipedreams: How the EU can support a regional 
gas hub in the Eastern Mediterranean.” European Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed
12 July 2018 at 
[http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/pipelines_and_pipedreams_how_the_eu_can_support_a_regional_gas_hub_in_7276].
[4] Kacper Szulecki (eds.) (2018). Energy Security in Europe: Divergent Perceptions 
and Policy Challenges. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
[5] Henry Foy et al., (2017). “Gazprom to receive funding for Nord Stream 2 pipeline.”
Financial Times. Accessed 12 July 2018 at 
[https://www.ft.com/content/32898bae-28f3-11e7-9ec8-168383da43b7]
[6] Kacper Szulecki (eds.) (2018). Energy Security in Europe: Divergent Perceptions 
and Policy Challenges. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

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