Nezavisimaya gazeta today produced a massive article on completing construction of the Nordstream II pipeline – now off Bornholm in Denmark (which the Russians wanted to occupy at the end of the war). The pipeline would bring natural gas directly from Russia into Germany, enabling the latter to become the hub for gas distribution throughout the EU. It would thereby make the EU a Russian dependency, vulnerable to the cold if the Kremlin treated it as it has treated Ukraine. In the circumstances it makes nonsense of NATO as an alliance against Russia.
The article is packed with information garnered from every open source and replete with pointed analysis. Opposition within the EU to the pipeline, open (almost the entire European parliament, the Green Party, Poland, the Baltic states, Romania…) and behind closed doors (France), is longstanding, but never really had to assert itself fully while the Americans were bearing the burden through the imposition of economic sanctions on all companies involved under President Trump. And New Year saw more such sanctions come into effect.
But now President Biden is anxious to do the opposite of whatever President Trump did at home or abroad – mindless demolition would not be too harsh a characterisation. The children’s game of “Simon says”, but in reverse. Thus far he has not collided with Democrats on the Hill, who are notoriously Russophobe. But Biden’s anti-Trump progression includes being nice to the Germans and forgetting about their lackadaisical attitude to paying fully for NATO, which is beginning to look like it is destined for the nursing home.
Chancellor Merkel is almost as isolated as President Putin. And the only way of appeasing her is simultaneously to do Putin a great favour at a time when he is in the doghouse for maltreatment of Naval’ny. So if Biden goes ahead with helping Merkel out of a bad spot, not only is he failing to get Naval’ny out of prison, he will open his flank to severe castigation from Congress for letting Nordstream flow. Even a sincere promise from the Kremlin not to turn off gas to Ukraine, which has been aired, so they say, in conversations with Merkel, has an unpleasant wiff about it given Putin’s previous protestations of complete innocence – poisoning opponents, engaging in cyberwarfare against NATO countries and conducting assassinations overseas. Moi?
And what would Biden do if, with Nordstream II completed and in operation, the Russians then begin squeezing the Ukrainians again? Impose even more sanctions? Close down a pipeline that Germany and the EU have become dependent upon? It is the fact of dependence upon such an unreliable partner created by such a pipeline that has created deafening opposition to it in the first place. Whoever in Moscow thought up the idea of co-opting into Nordstream the former German Chancellor did a brilliant job. It is beginning to look like check mate.