US, Germany abandon Ukraine in Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal

0


The Biden administration said it has officially ended its opposition to Russia’s completion of construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pipeline, which is over 90% complete, is expected to double the flow capacity. of Russian natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing the existing Ukrainian pipeline.

The United States has taken the German side against Kiev in this dispute. The operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will make Ukrainian infrastructure redundant, allowing the Kremlin to forgo paying Kiev around $ 2 billion in annual transit fees and increase threats to the security of Ukraine, which will lose a potential source of influence on Moscow.

Yuriy Vitrenko, CEO of Ukraine’s national gas company Naftogaz, was in Washington last week leading a delegation in a frenzied schedule of energy policy meetings as Ukrainians and their allies fought a losing lobby argument against the agreement. When I contacted Vitrenko by phone as he boarded his flight to Kiev, he sounded defiant: “We don’t see why the US-German statement should change our position or affect our fight against Nord Stream. 2. It is a matter of security for Ukraine and we will continue to explain why this is so and how US sanctions can stop the pipeline. “

The Biden administration said it has officially ended its opposition to Russia’s completion of construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pipeline, which is over 90% complete, is expected to double the flow capacity. of Russian natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing the existing Ukrainian pipeline.

The United States has taken the German side against Kiev in this dispute. The operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will make Ukrainian infrastructure redundant, allowing the Kremlin to forgo paying Kiev around $ 2 billion in annual transit fees and increase threats to the security of Ukraine, which will lose a potential source of influence on Moscow.

Yuriy Vitrenko, CEO of Ukraine’s national gas company Naftogaz, was in Washington last week leading a delegation in a frenzied schedule of energy policy meetings as Ukrainians and their allies fought a losing lobby argument against the agreement. When I contacted Vitrenko by phone as he boarded his flight to Kiev, he sounded defiant: “We don’t see why the US-German statement should change our position or affect our fight against Nord Stream. 2. It is a matter of security for Ukraine and we will continue to explain why this is so and how US sanctions can stop the pipeline. “

The current gas transit agreement between Kiev and Moscow is set to expire in 2024, but will almost certainly not last that long if the new pipeline becomes operational. The U.S. policy shift represents a brutal reversal of President Joe Biden’s campaign platform, which combined strong rhetoric toward Russia with promises that Moscow would “pay the price” for its interference in the US elections.

Germany-US deal calls on Berlin to create a billion dollar fund to shift Ukraine to clean energy; the Germans will provide the first $ 175 million from the fund and help raise additional capital. Congress and Ukrainian reviews of the agreement stressed that the German commitments to Ukrainian security in the agreement are deeply and gravely insufficient, expressing a feeling of betrayal widely felt in Kiev. The agreement on the existing pipeline had created a minimum of deterrence against the radical escalation of Russian military aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Previous negotiations with the Americans had focused on the implementation by Germany of “rapid return procedures” which would cut off the gas circulating in Nord Stream 2 in the event of further Russian aggression against Ukrainian territory. No assurances of a so-called “kill switch” or concrete pledges of re-enactment of sanctions tied to specific Russian actions were included in the final deal.

The total amount of Ukrainian green energy investment offered as compensation for the deal is seen by many in Kiev as quite minor, if not insulting, compared to the transit fees Ukraine risks forgoing if Moscow breaks the deal. existing gas transit agreement.

In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to his audience statements these last months, the continuation of the transit of Russian gas by the Ukrainian gas pipeline being subordinated to the actions of Kiev. A very read trial published this month on the official website of the Russian presidential administration under the name Putin reformulated the Russo-centric chauvinistic view that Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians constitute one nation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had quietly hoped that the pipeline problem would resolve itself. Some of his advisers believed parts of the Nord Stream 2 project would have violated technical aspects of EU competition law and that EU competition regulators would step in to kill or change the deal, sparing thus his opponents in Berlin need to do it themselves.

Merkel’s government never really came up with a back-up plan in case the regulators did not step in, which they ultimately did not do. The Ukrainians and their allies also see the deal as offering no guarantees or incentives that cannot be canceled by the new German Chancellor (Merkel is on the verge of to resign This year).

Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Berlin to engage in direct personal negotiations with Merkel over a four-hour working dinner. But the German offer of a consolation package and the US application of diplomatic and political pressure will likely prove insufficient to force Ukraine and Poland, which shares concerns about the new project, to agree to what they want. consider it an existentially dangerous agreement. On Wednesday evening, the Polish and Ukrainian foreign ministers launched counter-bursts of opening to the agreement, with a joint statement which stated that “unfortunately the proposals so far to cover the resulting security gap cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by [Nord Stream 2]. “

Vocal opposition to the Kiev-Warsaw deal can create political headaches for the Biden administration. “Ukraine has every reason to feel wronged,” said academic John Lough, whose book Germany’s Russia Problem: The Struggle for Balance in Europe was published earlier this month.

“The Biden administration clearly sees more value in keeping relations with Germany aligned than in protecting Ukraine’s security interests,” Lough said. “The Nord Stream 2 debacle shows us the limits of the turn in German policy towards Russia that Angela Merkel initiated in 2014. It was a radical policy at the time because it introduced sanctions but it did not transformed Germany’s thinking on energy relations with Russia. . “

The Biden administration is also reported for quietly pressuring the Ukrainians to withdraw from open opposition to the agreement and quietly accept it as a done. In a transparent transactional signal – at least in terms of timing – several hours before the release of technical details of the deal, the White House also announcement a much-desired meeting between Biden and Zelensky at the end of August.

The Zelensky administration had been campaigning for a meeting with the White House since early 2019, a process that sadly led to the impeachment of then-US President Donald Trump when Trump tried to persuade Kiev to open a investigating the activities of Biden and Biden’s Son in Ukraine. The timing of the announcement led to speculation among Ukrainian viewers as to whether the visit was contingent on Kiev accepting an unpleasant deal in exchange for the meeting; Kiev had long sought the meeting as a signal of US political support for external and internal political needs.

Immediately after the announcement of the Nord Stream 2 deal, strong and consistent voices of opposition erupted. They came from a significant number of senior Democratic and Republican leaders – and the agreement to drop sanctions on the companies building the pipeline could very well be blocked by Congress.

Several members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus publicly called on the White House to reschedule the August 30 meeting with Zelensky on a date when Congress would be in session. Inviting Zelensky to a consolation meeting at this point may also have been a way of preventing him from pressuring someone important against the deal while he was in Washington, thus avoiding further embarrass the White House.

Ukraine is used to the disappointment of its allies. But unless plans for Nord Stream 2 change drastically, concerns and anger in Kiev will continue.



Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.