An employee wearing a Nord Stream 2 safety jacket stands in front of the pigging station at the Nord Stream 2 gas landing facility on April 29 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lubmin.
JENS BÜTTNER/PICTURE ALLIANCE/GETTY IMAGES
Welcome to the return of old Europe, where Germany and Russia call the shots.
BY MIHAILO S. ZEKIC • MAY 20
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline on May 19. The Biden administration now plans to instead sanction entities involved in the project individually. As of May 20, eight Russian entities are sanctioned. The German entities involved in the project, however, can continue work sanction-free.
It is unclear if the sanctions on Russian entities will have any effect—the entities sanctioned are minor ones that may not even have business dealings with the U.S. For example, one of them is the Russian Marine Rescue Service.
Nord Stream 2 was under U.S. sanctions during the Trump administration. President Donald Trump signed a bill into law in 2019 that put sanctions on any organizations involved in the project. He demonstrated how serious he was in 2020 when he sanctioned Fährhafen Sassnitz GmbH, a German corporation operating Mukran Port on Germany’s Baltic Coast. The company, jointly owned by a municipal and state government, was harboring Russian ships working on the pipeline.
President Trump’s sanctions halted construction of the pipeline, which was in its final phases. Biden’s removal of sanctions would mean that construction could go ahead. The pipeline is 95 percent complete, so it won’t take long to become operational.
Last month, the U.S. Justice Department withdrew legal approval for more sanctions on Nord Stream 2. It seems Washington was planning ahead for yesterday’s removal of sanctions.
Nord Stream 2 is controversial because it undermines Eastern Europe’s security. Russia is a major energy supplier to Europe, but most of its existing oil and gas pipelines travel through Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and other countries of the former Soviet bloc.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and it currently sponsors rebels in eastern Ukraine. These and other actions make Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states especially nervous about Russian intentions to invade.
The pipelines are their lifelines. Fossil fuels are one of the Russian economy’s main exports. According to World Exports, mineral fuels (including petroleum) account for 42.1 percent of Russian exports. The next-biggest category of exports, gems and precious metals, make up only 9 percent. If anything were to disrupt the flow of oil and gas into Europe, Moscow’s cash flow would be severely hampered. This has stopped Russian President Vladimir Putin from taking any actions too extreme in Ukraine and elsewhere.
In 2005, Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” He’s extremely proud of the Soviet empire’s legacy, and his main objective has always been to restore Russia to superpower status. A major way he’s been doing that is to gobble up more territory of the former Soviet Union piece by piece. He did that with Georgia in 2008 and with Crimea in 2014.
But those are small prizes. To resurrect the Soviet empire, bigger territories have to follow. Russia’s pipeline network mostly stops this from happening. But Nord Stream 2 has the potential to nullify the pipeline issue completely.
The project involves a natural gas pipeline traveling under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. Germany will become the new natural gas hub for Western Europe. This pipeline allows Russia to export natural gas to Western Europe while sidelining Eastern Europe.
Nord Stream 2 then has the potential to be a death sentence for Ukraine and Poland. Moscow could cut off their energy supplies and pressure them to conform to Russian demands. In the case of Ukraine, Putin may even try a formal invasion.
“The Biden administration has been clear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and that of Ukraine and the eastern flank nato [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] allies and partners,” said a State Department spokesperson. “We continue to examine entities involved in potentially sanctionable activity and have made it clear that companies risk sanctions if they are involved in North Stream 2.”
That is, unless the company happens to be Nord Stream 2 itself.
Blinken said in his confirmation hearings at the U.S. Senate in January that he was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent that completion [of Nord Stream 2], the last hundred yards.” He said in a March 25 interview with Euronews that “President Biden … thinks that Nord Stream 2 is a bad idea and a bad deal for Europe, for us, for the alliance.”
Why the sudden about-face?
According to Axios, important Biden officials claim that the only way to halt the project is to sanction the German entities on the receiving end of the pipeline. But the U.S. doesn’t want to strain its relationship with Germany because of Nord Stream 2.
This is Washington’s way of basically giving Berlin the green light to go ahead.
It’s easy to see why Berlin would want to make Germany the energy hub for Western Europe. But why is it willing to “make a deal with the devil” to do it? Why is it willing to risk the security of East European countries—many of which are EU and nato member states?
And what about the United States? Washington poured billions of dollars into Germany over decades through the Marshall Plan, nato, and other programs. This was to get Germany back on its feet after World War ii and protect it from Russian aggression. Germany got back on its feet decades ago. Russia still is an expansionist threat to Europe. But Germany is still going ahead with this deal that America, its main protector, sees as a security threat.
It seems that Berlin’s loyalties are more to Vladimir Putin than to its nato partners.
Once Nord Stream 2 is complete, Russia risks less in turning off the taps to Eastern Europe. Gas can still flow to Western Europe. But France, the Netherlands, Austria and other countries would have to go to Germany for it. This gives Germany about as much leverage on Western Europe as Russia would have on Eastern Europe.
You could say that Germany and Russia are carving up Europe between themselves.
And this wouldn’t be the first time. In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin agreed to divide up countries like Poland, Romania and the Baltic states. This pact directly led to World War ii.
Many hoped that 21st-century Europe would be different from the Europe of old. They hoped that institutions like the EU would turn Europe into a continent of cooperation, integration and respect for national borders. Nord Stream 2 basically returns Europe to 1939: a Europe where Germany and Russia call the shots, and everybody else has to listen, or else.
One has to wonder if this “Molotov-Ribbentrop 2 pipeline” is a harbinger for another crisis in Europe.
But that could never happen as long as the nato alliance is strong, right?
“When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (nato) was started back in 1949, its basic purpose was to protect disarmed Germany and other European countries from the Russian-led Soviet Union,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his 2018 article, “Germany and Russia’s Secret War Against America.” “To accomplish this, the treaty established ‘collective defense’ for member nations: If an aggressor attacked one of them, it would have war with all of them.
“Nord Stream 2 binds Russia and Germany together in a way that undermines nato. In fact, though Russia and Germany will not say so, this pipeline project is clearly intended to wreck nato.”
It’s no surprise that Putin would want nato out of the way. That’s been one of Moscow’s main goals since the organization was founded. But what about Germany?
Mr. Flurry continued: “What is not as obvious is the fact that Germany also wants to eliminate nato.”
Find out why by reading “Germany and Russia’s Secret War Against America.”