German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Tuesday the blocking of the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, in response to the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize the pro-Russian separatist territories of Ukraine. The project intended to transport gas from Russia to Germany without passing through Ukrainian territory, so its approval entailed geostrategic consequences.
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“There can be no certification” of that infrastructure, Scholz said in an appearance before the press in Berlin in which he assured that “the situation has changed” after Moscow’s recognition of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics of Donbas. Scholz has said that the German government and those of its partners in the European Union will announce “in a coordinated manner” this Tuesday the sanctions that they will impose on Russia for what he called a “rupture” by Russia of the international agreements signed by Moscow in the last decades.
Both from the United States and from Scholz’s own tripartite – especially, among the Green partners, opposed to that gas pipeline since before entering the Government – it had been taken for granted that it would not come into operation, in case of invasion.
The gas pipeline had generated political discussion practically since its inception precisely because of the fear, especially in Eastern Europe, that it would create an energy dependency on Russia. The first to link to possible sanctions the entry into operation of the gas pipeline, whose construction culminated in 2021, was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the green Annalena Baerbock.
In the event of a new Russian aggression against Ukraine, “we have a range of responses available, including Nord Stream II,” he said in a speech from Parliament in January.
Scholz had so far avoided any questions about it, although he had recalled the agreement reached with the US, by which Washington withdrew the threat of sanctions on the gas pipeline, even with Angela Merkel in power and which implied that it would not come into operation in the event of a Russian attack on Ukraine.
After the recognition by Putin of the pro-Russian separatist territories, the president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, had insisted on Tuesday that the sanctions studied by the European countries should “include the total arrest of the Nord Stream 2”, the Russian gas pipeline that planned to transport gas from Russia to Germany without passing through Ukrainian territory.
What is North Stream?
Announced in 2015, the giant’s $11 billion gas pipeline Gazpromthe Russian state-owned company, has been built to bring gas from western Siberia, doubling the capacity of the existing pipeline, Nord Stream 1, which supplies 26 million German households at an affordable price, The Guardian reported.
Nord Stream is a system for transporting gas from Russia to Germany and other European countries through the Baltic and consists of two gas pipelines: Nord Stream 1, which started operating in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which was completed last year. but that it had not yet received the license to start operating.
Nord Stream 1 is owned by a consortium whose majority shareholder, with 51 percent, is the Russian giant Gazprom and the rest is divided between Winterhall Dea, E-on, Gasunie and Engie. Nord II is wholly owned by Gazprom. Plans to create a route through the Baltic to transport gas to Germany – thereby saving Gazprom from paying passage fees through Poland and Ukraine – were hatched at a time of excellent relations between Russia and Germany and between the chancellor of the time, Gerhard Schröder, and President Vladimir Putin.
Ever since the pipeline was proposed, just a year after Putin invaded Ukraine, Kiev has campaigned strongly against its implementation. Ukraine feared that by bypassing its own gas pipeline connecting Russia and Europe, the new pipeline – which is part of Russia’s broader strategy to cut ties with post-Soviet republics – would be deprived of much-needed tariff payments. transport, which is equivalent to 4% of its GDP.
Construction of the gas pipeline was completed in September after many delays and legal problems. But Gazprom’s board was awaiting final legal permission from German regulators to begin supplying gas through the controversial pipeline. That permission had become a contentious issue in the new German government coalition, aggravated by Putin’s threat to Ukrainian sovereignty.
For Germany, the advantage of transportation through the Baltic was that it guaranteed its gas supply and meant that it would not be affected by possible political conflicts with other countries.
Both then and now, it was key for Germany to ensure the supply of Russian gas because, given the process of abandoning atomic energy, which had begun in 2002 by decision of the red-green government of Schröderm, alternatives were needed while progressing. the promotion of renewables.
Nord Stream II responded to the same principle of optimizing the transport of Russian gas to Germany and was initially proposed as a joint Gazprom project with several European companies that, however, withdrew from the project. Added to the misgivings of various European partners – including France – were threats of sanctions by the United States, which were finally withdrawn after obtaining the aforementioned guarantees regarding Ukraine from Merkel.
Scholz’s arrival in power at the head of his tripartite between Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals, last December, occurred in the midst of a worsening of the Ukrainian crisis, which has ended up triggering the blocking of the necessary permits to start up the controversial gas pipeline.