There is no sense to analyze deeply the artwork of the German and American lobbyists of the Kremlin’s Nord Stream 2 project (NS2), which has been hastily made and skillfully carried through the circles of power in Washington. Perhaps, one day it will become the subject of the parliamentary investigations in the United States and Germany.
It makes no sense to analyze it in detail, because its real goal is to facilitate the completion of the construction of the Nord Stream 2, which, yet, being hybridly disguised by lobbyists as caring for Ukraine.
After all, everything that concerns the various “sweet promises” Ukraine is a zilch, veiled in the style of the infamous 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
If it was really about maintaining the status quo of gas transportation through Ukraine to the EU and respective security guarantees, then a document like “On the Imposition of a Moratorium on the Completion of the Nord Stream 2 and On Guarantees of Energy Security for the Central and Eastern European Countries” should have had appeared. Signed by Joe Biden and Angela Merkel.
The German “Greens” proposed an option on moratorium a few months ago. Yet, lacking an appropriate lobbying potential not only in Washington, but also even in the Bundestag, they failed to bring the idea into life. Instead, this motion frantically intensified the Kremlin’s German proxies, including Angela Merkel.
Now we need to examine why this has happened and what to do next.
First, why it happened. This is important to understand, if we are to develop an appropriate algorithm of actions to prolong the opposition to Nord Stream 2, where latter is yet another Kremlin’s mechanism of its hybrid aggression in Europe.
Let’s bring forward six key points here.
1. In December 2020 the United States suffered an invisible, but massive defeat in cyberspace (attack on SolarWinds).
Over the time, it is getting obvious that for the United States this has become a sort of a cybernetic Pearl Harbor. It was inflicted by the Putin’s regime. The offensive was developed further with an attack on the Colonial Pipeline by the “ikhtamnet” (“we-are-not-there”) cyber-forces in May 2021.
Thus, Russia created a new vulnerability for the United States and its current administration. The United States is definitely a powerful country, but not omnipotent. They do not know (yet) how to neutralize this invisible enemy. They play for time, study the theater of military operations (in cyberspace), and are forced to make concessions to “ikhtamnets” in order not to get things worse. This is what Russia is using for its advantage, while acting through the German proxies.
2. In fact, by taking up the initiative to neutralize the US sanctions against the Russian project, the German federal government acts as a proxy for the Kremlin.
It is paradoxical that the Berlin keeps repeating the mantra about NS2 as a private project of a group of companies and the federal government has nothing to do with it, while its officials are empowered to go to Washington, negotiate and formulate an official document.
The Kremlin applauds to the skills of German proxies. The high art of hybrid special operations is to make an enemy do everything you need with his own hands.
3. One could add a “hard” vulnerability of some American companies that once fell into the Russian pipeline trap to the mentioned US cyber (“soft”) vulnerability.
Here we talk about “Chevron”, the second largest company in the United States, with it’s 18% of global oil production coming from the Kazakh field via the Tengiz-Novorossiysk pipeline operated by Russia state-owned “Transneft”. It seems that Russians might have blackmailed “Chevron”, which prompted the latter to covert lobbying activities in Kremlin’s interest.
And what Kremlin needs is well known. It is noteworthy that the BGR Group (already well-known in Ukraine) is the official lobbyist of both “Nord Stream 2 AG” (the Nord Stream 2 operator), and “Chevron” company in Washington.
Not by coincidence, that “Chevron” company was among few American companies, which opposed the US sanctions against Russia. In early 2000ies this company suffered a crushing defeat from “Gazprom”’s anti-shale propaganda in Europe (the most striking example was Bulgaria) and curtailed its projects there to Russia’s content.
4. Helplessness of the European institutions in counteracting Russia’s energy expansion in Europe has become apparent not today, but five years ago.
They were incapable to stop NS2 at early stages, despite the fact that this project contradicted the declared principles of the EU Energy Union from 2015.
Does anyone remember that the system of EU encompasses not just the Energy Union, but also the Energy Community, where Ukraine has been a member too since 2011?
Despite the fact that both the European Parliament (strongly) rejected the NS2 project and the European Commission (sluggishly) opposed it, owing to German de-facto dominance in the EU institutions, NS2 received a regime of passive resistance, to overall satisfaction of the Russians.
The only success of the European institutions is the extension of the EU Gas Directive to “Gazprom”’s offshore gas pipelines. This is largely owing to an active position of Poland and Romania, which did not allow the Russians and their henchmen in Brussels to rest peacefully.
5. No doubts, non-systemic resistance of Ukraine to Russian bypass projects also played well into the current situation.
On the one hand, we managed to secure some success, as no other similar project of “Gazprom” – neither “Blue Stream”, nor “South Stream”, “North Stream”, “Turkish Stream” – has received such an international awareness as NS2. This largely owes to “Naftogaz”’s corporate efforts over the past six years, in fact, since the very first public mentioning of this Putin’s project.
On the other hand, both the previous government and the current inhabitants of Bankova have failed to form the state vertical of energy security. They equally failed to create a systemic policy of direct counteraction to Kremlin’s projects, and to coordinate interaction with our partners at the state level – the USA, Poland, the Baltic countries – to neutralize the threats generated by Russia in the energy sector.
One can say that corporate diplomacy has performed the function of the state and has achieved considerable success. The US sanctions against NS2 delayed its completion and forced “Gazprom” to conclude a new agreement with “Naftogaz” in 2019. However, this was not enough to block the project entirely.
Now this sad short-sightedness at the state level bears its sore fruits.
The most vibrant examples of that could be seen in unprofessional refusal of some officials of the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine (AMCU) to open respective antimonopoly investigations, or still-not-imposed sanctions of the National Security Council of Ukraine (RNBO) onto “Nord Stream-2 AG” (company-operator of NS2).
6. After the US imposed its sanctions over NS2 in late 2019, Russia and “Gazprom” still continued their work on NS2 construction, however, less visibly.
Obviously, having recovered from the sanctions blow of the US Congress and taken advantage of post-election turbulence in Washington, Schroeder-Warnig’s “German detachment” has been quietly operating in the deep rear of Europe, going ahead with “Putin’s deal”.
Russia does not need to be over-active now. Germany (as an ally) and the United States (as an adversary) still act according to the algorithm, which enables Russia to win over NS2.
The Kremlin’s self-confidence to win has grown so much that they have decided to openly blackmail Europe by reducing gas supplies this year, having profited from maximized prices, thus, forcing Europeans stop resisting NS2.
7. The Chinese factor. However not directly present here, it acts in hidden way, as Washington is preoccupied with the misleading idea of the possibility to counter China through a global alliance with Germany and Russia.
However, in reality, another informal alliance has already been formed. This is China + (Russia + Germany) alliance, which is aimed at neutralizing the United States and the EU as global centers of power. Russian pipeline projects in the West (flows in the Baltic and Black Seas), as well as those in the East (the Forces of Siberia) aim to create “pipeline knots” for this alliance.
* * * * *
Of course, this is not a complete list of reasons that have led to the current situation.
However, these are the main factors of influence that must be taken into account, while drafting the further recipe for neutralizing Russian ‘gas octopus’ in Europe.
It is worth remembering that the case does not look as hopeless as it might seem at first glance. Take alone the recent judgement of European Court of Justice, which hampered the victorious vector of Putin’s flows. This happened precisely when Merkel was heading to Washington for the talks.
In sum, the fight goes on. Next article will analyze in more detail what Ukraine should do in the current situation.
The original of this Article has been published in Ukrains’ka Pravda on Thursday, July 22, 2021 (https://www.eurointegration.com.ua/experts/2021/07/22/7125730/)