The agreement reached by Germany and the United States on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will transport gas from the Russian Arctic to Germany via the Baltic Sea, means a tough but foreseeable defeat for Ukraine and a victory, albeit conditional, for Russia. Despite the fact that the Kremlin has assured on several occasions that it will not use the gas pipeline to harm Kiev, experts consider that the Nord Stream 2, which will allow Russia to export gas to Europe without having to pass through its territory, makes it more vulnerable and it has opened a security crisis throughout the region.
The agreement has drawn much criticism in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that the new gas pipeline poses a clear threat to the security of his country, a question that the president, Volodímir Zelenski, plans to raise with Biden during the meeting that they will hold soon in Washington, where he will try to obtain more compensation and guarantees for the start-up of the new gas pipeline.
The pact between Germany and the United States to unblock the completion of the pipeline includes an obligation for Berlin to sanction Russia if it tries to use the pipeline as a weapon against Ukraine, as has happened in the past. From what was said by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, there is obvious annoyance from Moscow. Peskov noted that the document “speaks of countering Russia’s aggression and its harmful actions both in Ukraine and outside of it.” “We categorically disagree with that formulation,” said the spokesman.
Moscow’s position was also reflected in the statement of the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, who stressed that Russia has never used its energy wealth as an instrument of political pressure, therefore it strongly rejects the attacks that are made on the Kremlin in this sense. Russia has shown in its long relations with Europe, maintains the diplomat, to be a reliable partner and considers that the accusations that are made are nothing more than unfair competition.
“The hostile tone towards our country fundamentally contradicts the spirit of the talks” held between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva, Antonov points out in his statement. And the attribution of bad intentions to Russia and the threats made to it “are unfounded and useless,” according to the ambassador. “We cannot accept such rhetoric or the practice of illegitimate unilateral sanctions,” he says.
But despite the irritation that some passages of the agreement have caused in Moscow, for Russia it is objectively a triumph; not in vain the German newspaper The world he considers it a kind of gift from Chancellor Angela Merkel to Putin.
Ukrainian fears go further. The state company Naftogaz believes that the Russians will stop pumping gas across Ukrainian territory after 2024, when the current contract ends. Yuri Vitrenko, president of the Ukrainian gas company, does not doubt that Moscow “uses gas as a geopolitical weapon” against his country and the entire region and considers that to guarantee its energy security, Ukraine must join NATO. A question anathema to Russia.
He is not the only one who has raised this issue. For Ekaterina Odarchenko, president of the Institute for Democracy and Development, Ukraine’s security will be significantly threatened with Nord Stream 2, as after Russia stops using Ukraine as a transit country for its gas, it will no longer fear launching offensives that could damage gas pipelines, which means that the military threat will be much greater. Hence, he agrees with Vitrenko that it is necessary to accelerate Ukraine’s integration into the Alliance, as well as into the European Union.
For this reason, the United States wants Russia to commit to continuing the transit of gas through Ukrainian territory until at least 2034. Putin has on several occasions assured that Russia is interested in continuing to pump gas through Ukraine and that he has no intention of reneging on the contract, but the start-up of Nord Stream 2 now opens an unknown with its renewal.
Russians since Soviet times have proven to be pragmatic in their trade relations with the West. And if Gazprom plans to pump more than 200 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, then it will have to continue to use transit through Ukraine. It will also be forced to continue pumping fuel through Ukrainian territory if the German regulator does not approve the certification of the Nord Stream 2 AG company as an independent operator, since in that case Gazprom will not be able to use more than 50% of the capacity of the new gas pipeline.