It is not a new debate in Germany nor in the European Union (EU), but ‘caso Navalni’ has stoked disagreements about the project Nord Stream 2. After the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader, confirmed by the analysis of a German military laboratory at the request of the Berlin clinic Charité – in which Alekséi Navalni is still admitted -, the German federal government no longer rules out the stoppage of the Russian gas pipeline which should ensure the energy supply of Germany and the EU. “It is wrong to rule it out,” said the spokesman for Angela Merkel, Steffen Seibert, in direct reference to the Chancellor’s position.
This represents a fundamental change in the position of Merkel, until now a staunch defender of Nord Stream 2 despite criticism of the 1,230-kilometer-long gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea with only 120 remaining to be completed. The works have been paralyzed for months after threats from the president of the United States, Donal Trump, to impose more sanctions to companies involved in the project. Washington assures that the EU would become dependent on Russian gas. Critics of the US decision see, however, an attempt to sell to Europe the gas itself extracted through the controversial technique of fracking.
The debate within the EU about Nord Stream 2 – a European project, but whose main promoter has been Berlin – threatens to open strong cracks not only between the German political parties, but even within the Federal Government of the Grand Coalition formed by the Christian Democrats of the CDU and the Social Democrats of SPD.
The prime ministers of the five East German Länder plus Berlin – that is, the territories of the defunct German Democratic Republic – recently signed a document advocating the completion of the project. The six heads of government, from the CDU, the SPD and La Izquierda, warn that the cancellation of a practically finished project would mean economic “important consequences” and for energy supply. Politicians and businessmen from East Germany have opposed, not in vain, in recent years Western sanctions against Russia from Vladimir Putin, which, along with other Eastern European countries, remains an important market for the East German private sector.
The German Federal Parliament has also become the scene of disputes over Nord Stream 2, especially in the opposition. While the eco-liberals of Los Verdes ask to cancel a project that they consider a danger for “the sovereignty of foreign policy” and “for European climate objectives”, the Left – a party made up of ex-communists and former social democrats – believes that its paralysis would be a blow to Germany’s sovereign decisions on its own energy supply.
As a backdrop floats a fundamental element for the future of the German economy: the containment of energy consumption prices for citizens and companies once the abandonment of the nuclear energy it is the consummate decision of the federal government after the Fukushima disaster.
For the Kremlin, the suspension sine die The Nord Stream 2 project would constitute a huge economic blow at a time of need for Russia’s economic coffers, and multiplies the gestures and pressures to disassociate it from the evolution of the ‘Navalni case’. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has reiterated again that it is a infrastructure that will benefit both countries. “You have to stop mentioning it (the project) in the midst of any politicization; it is a business theme completely in line with the interests of Russia and the countries of the European Union, in particular Germany, “declared the Kremlin spokesman. As an additional measure of pressure, Gazprom sent a ship from St. Petersburg to Mukran, the supply base for the controversial pipeline in Germany.
According to the consultancy Artur D Little, the main beneficiary country of the pipeline is Russia, with an impact greater than $ 6 billion in its economy, followed by Germany, although with an impact close to half. There is a whole current of thought in Europe that increasingly makes its voice heard and that abhors the idea of delivering such a juicy figure to a country that is basically enemy and openly supports Europhobic and far-right movements, and it is even investigated if they receive any type of financing.
One of the main drawbacks of the project is that it leaves a very poor position Ukraine, a country through which the Nord Stream 1 pipeline passes and an important source of income for the Slavic country. Andriy Kobolev, president of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, has stated that if Nord Stream 2 is terminated, his country will lose $ 3 billion, “a very significant amount” for the country’s economy.
In addition, the first pipeline grants the Kiev Government one of the few elements of Pressure it has to deal with its disputes with its powerful neighbor to the east, with whom it maintains important disputes. The passage of gas through Ukrainian territory to markets in Western and Central Europe depends on the goodwill of Kiev, which you can always cut the supply. If the Nord Stream 2 starts to work, that lever in front of Moscow disappears.