The conflict over Nord Stream 2 has been a burden on German-American relations for years. Now both sides have apparently agreed on an agreement. t-online explains what that means.
In the year-long dispute over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, Germany and the USA have apparently come to an agreement. Several US media are reporting on a corresponding agreement that will allow the completion of the gas pipeline as well as contain economic and political guarantees for Ukraine.
The two countries want to take sanctions against Russia if the Moscow gas pipeline is used to harm Ukraine or other Eastern European countries. According to the reports, Germany also wants to ensure that the transit contract between the Russian Gazprom group and Ukraine, which runs until 2024, is extended. Chancellor Merkel (CDU) made this a prerequisite for approving Nord Stream 2.
The reports initially left a lot open, such as what the sanctions or other measures might look like if Russian President Vladimir Putin should use the pipeline as a means of pressure – as feared by Ukraine, Poland and other states. It is also unlikely that the German-American agreement will remain without political headwinds. t-online answers the most important questions about the upcoming agreement.
Why has President Joe Biden’s administration given up its opposition to the pipeline?
That is the question many are currently asking. Joe Biden once described the pipeline as “a fundamentally bad deal for Europe”. In the presidential election campaign, he called Russia “currently the greatest threat to America”. His Democrats never tire of criticizing President Donald Trump for what they consider to be too lenient with Moscow.
After the election, Biden’s new government initially reaffirmed this course. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said in early March that they were against Nord Stream 2 and will continue to be so. But in the weeks that followed, there were signs of a rethink.
Apparently in an effort to repair the battered transatlantic relationship after the Trump era, the US government refrained from further sanctions against companies involved in the gas pipeline. President Biden defended the decision by saying that the pipeline was nearing completion and that relations with Europe could be damaged if the US continued its resistance.
Can an agreement prevent Russia from exerting pressure on Eastern European countries with the gas pipeline?
The political scientist and Ukraine expert Andreas Umland from the Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies does not believe that. He thinks it is good that Germany and the US promise to take action if Russia misuses the pipeline for political purposes and that Ukraine should receive support in extending its transit agreements. But these levers could have been used in the past – and then failed to do so.
“Nord Stream 1 already served the Gazprom Group to become more independent from the transit country Ukraine, which subsequently led to political upheavals, which led to the war in eastern Ukraine at the end of 2014.” In Kiev, mistrust is great, especially since the country is threatened with economic damage because the links between the Ukrainian and Russian economies are weakening.
Who will benefit from the agreement between Berlin and Washington?
In the opinion of the Ukraine expert surrounding area: clearly Russia. “In terms of energy policy, Moscow will become even more independent thanks to the pipeline. In Germany, too, some companies and federal states may benefit economically. But that will be limited.”
Because from the point of view of the political scientist, the project is economically of dubious use. Infrastructure overcapacities already existed, so Umland, and with Nord Stream 2 this would increase. That is why the pipeline should be understood primarily politically. “Strategically, the project is of course a win for Moscow.”
The political scientist also wants to clear up a misunderstanding: that the US is driven by economic ambitions to sell its fracking gas to Europe and therefore wanted to prevent the pipeline. “American shale gas is at best marginally. The dispute over Nord Stream 2 is purely about the transport routes. Russian gas will flow to Europe one way or the other – one way or the other.”
Will the project now come to a smooth end or is further resistance expected?
There will certainly be a loud echo. Because the front of the opponents of Nord Stream 2 is broad. On the one hand there are the Eastern European countries, above all Ukraine and Poland, which fear economic damage and are concerned about their safety. There are also other European countries such as France that have been reluctant to view the project for a long time. At the end of January, the European Parliament, in response to the detention of the Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, called for the pipeline construction to be stopped immediately.
US President Biden is also likely to experience strong resistance in his home country. There, many Republicans are rejecting the pipeline and calling for sanctions, just like some Democrats. They are united in the view that Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical project by Russia that threatens Europe’s energy security and harms Ukraine.
“So far, the agreement has been a calculation that was made without the host,” says political scientist Umland. “The biggest opponents of the project, who are sitting in the US Congress, in Eastern Europe, in the European Parliament, are now going to take action and speak up. That’s why the matter is still not in the bag.”