Russian Gas to Secure German Dominance over Europe

The Russians are very pleased that the poisoning of opposition leader Aleksei Naval’ny has not disturbed Berlin’s entente with Moscow. For a while it did not look so good. But Chancellor Merkel saved the day, averting an unanticipated crisis in relations with President Putin by kicking the Naval’ny poisoning into the long grass. By referring it to Brussels, she ensured that the issue would get gummed up in the bureaucracy and then fall on its face as soon as more than two dozen member states became involved. Fortuitously, by removing himself to Russia, Naval’ny has unintentionally allowed German-Russian relations to resume their smooth course as German press coverage fades into insignificance.

The Germans are driven not only in the first instance by commercial considerations in determining their foreign policy outside Europe, but they also see their power over the rest of Europe as a product of economic dominance which those priorities make possible. This is certainly how the Russians interpret the steadfastness of the German commitment to the Nordstream II project.

The Germans have long been unrivalled in European manufacturing. But their rejection of nuclear energy and their “green’ commitment to dump coal as a source of energy have left them perilously weak compared with the French, who have committed wholeheartedly to a future of nuclear power. They desperately need the Russians. The emergence of Nordstream under former Chancellor Schroeder has meant that Germany would have to mortgage its security to Russia in order to guarantee its energy supplies. And that has inevitably created tension in relations between Washington and Berlin as the Americans still seek to contain Russian power and influence in the world. Clearly the Germans now hope that President Biden will be weak and allow them to carry on regardless. Merkel has already indicated that Germany will not fulfil its commitments to raise defence expenditure as a percentage of GNP which had been promised to the Trump administration. Biden is unlikely to do anything about that. On the other hand he may very well also do nothing to halt the withdrawal of US servicemen from German territory.

Berlin’s hope has been that in Moscow growing dependence on Germany – and by extension much of the EU – for profits from natural gas would ensure that the Russians would not behave in relation to the Germans as they have in the past behaved towards the Baltic states and Ukraine by cutting off the gas in winter to force these states into line when their interests clashed.

The Russians note that by securing through Nordstream II dependable access to natural gas from Russia at cheap prices, Germany can also now turn itself into “the energy hub” of Europe. I wonder what the French think of this?

18.01.2021 17:19:00

Разногласия в отношении Навального не помешают сотрудничеству России и Германии

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До 2030 года партнерство с Берлином сосредоточится на цифровизации и поставках энергоносителей

Олег Никифоров
Ответственный редактор приложения “НГ-Энергия”