The United States will not disrupt the launch of the gas pipeline, and Germany will not allow Russia to use it as an energy lever of pressure on Ukraine and other European countries. The agreements between US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Nord Stream 2 are reminiscent of the Budapest Memorandum, with the difference that this time instead of nuclear weapons, we are losing a source of income in the form of transit of natural gas from Russia to Europe.
According to the document, the United States and Germany support anti-Russian sanctions, the process of peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in Donbas in the Normandy format, promise to assist in attracting $ 1 billion to a special "Green Fund for Ukraine" for projects in the field of green energy, to promote 10-year extension agreements on the transit of Russian natural gas, help us modernize the gas transportation system, and pledge to respond with sanctions on the political use of Nord Stream 2 by the Russian authorities to put pressure on Ukraine and other European countries.
There are doubts about the viability of these agreements. The effectiveness of sanctions as a means of coercing the Russian Federation leaves much to be desired. The current restrictive measures brought economic damage to Russia, but did not force its leadership to return the annexed Crimea to Ukraine, withdraw illegal armed groups from the occupied territories of Donbas, cooperate with the British government in the poisoning of former intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, with the US authorities in the case of cyber attacks and interference in the American elections or release opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The threat of new sanctions is unlikely to force Russia to guarantee the transit of natural gas through the Ukrainian gas transportation system. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russia is considering the possibility of gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine after 2024 if conditions are attractive. The reasons for Gazprom's refusal may be disagreement with the size of the tariff or fears about possible accidents at GTS facilities that were built back in the 60s and 80s. Kyiv plans to invest $ 1.4 billion in the modernization of the GTS until 2029.
The sanctions may, as usual, affect individual Russian citizens and companies, but not lead to a decrease in the volume of natural gas supplies from Russia. After all, Merkel does not intend to create a mechanism that would make it possible to shut off Nord Stream 2 if necessary. This idea was proposed by Andreas Nick, a deputy from the Christian Democratic Union party. The point is to redesign the pipeline so that it can be turned off if Moscow puts pressure on Kyiv.
It is not known what transit volumes Ukraine can count on after 2024. According to the latest agreement with Russia on the transit of natural gas, in 2021-2024 we can transit 40 billion cubic meters annually. m. Transit volumes are decreasing from year to year. According to the previous agreement, which expired in 2019, Gazprom guaranteed supplies of 60 billion cubic meters. meters of gas per year to Europe through the Ukrainian gas transportation system and allowed the possibility of increasing volumes to 90 billion cubic m. Nord Stream - 2 with a capacity of 55 billion cubic m. of gas a year cost Russian and European investors $ 11 billion. Investments will not pay off if the pipeline is not used at full capacity.
The downward trend in natural gas exports from Russia to Europe is not in favor of Ukraine: from 2018 to 2020, gas supplies fell from 200.8 to 177.31 billion cubic meters. m. In order not to irritate the United States and Germany, Russia can supply small consignments of gas through Ukraine, which will not bring us the former profit of $ 2.5-3 billion a year. Biden and Merkel's proposed investment in Ukraine's alternative energy sector does not compensate for the loss of profits from the transit of Russian gas.
It is curious that Biden and Merkel agreed on an issue that is directly related to Ukraine and Russia, without the participation of Presidents Zelensky and Putin. This means that the terms of the "Joint Statement in Support of Ukraine, European Energy Security, and Climate Goals" do not apply to Russia and it may not be guided by them in relations with Ukraine, the United States, or Germany. The document has no legal force in Ukraine.
One gets the impression that the visit of President Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House was deliberately postponed from July to August when the construction of Nord Stream 2 should be completed, so as not to once again focus on what Ukraine does not agree with. The American president will speak with his Ukrainian counterpart about Nord Stream 2 as a fait accompli, and not how to derail its launch.
Although Merkel met with Zelensky on the eve of her visit to the White House, she will not be responsible for Nord Stream 2 and its consequences. There is little time left until the end of her reign. In the parliamentary elections in Germany in September 2021, the candidate for the post of chancellor from the Christian Democratic Union is Armin Laschet.
Biden's problem is that he is fixated on the confrontation with China and is trying to impose this agenda on NATO. The United States turned a blind eye to Nord Stream 2 to improve relations with Germany, China's important trade and economic partner in Europe. Biden did not drown the gas pipeline with sanctions in order to stabilize relations with Russia, in the hope of achieving its neutrality in the US-China confrontation.
Member of the US House of Representatives Marcy Kaptur believes that the agreements between Biden and Merkel do not guarantee the security of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which historically paid for the agreements between Moscow and Berlin. It is difficult to disagree with the American legislator, because the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 entailed the annexation of the Baltic countries, Bessarabia and Western Ukraine to the USSR, the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany.
Not all NATO members are delighted with the Russian gas pipeline. In March 2016, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia signed a petition against the construction of Nord Stream 2 due to the risks to the energy security of Central and Eastern Europe. After the gas pipeline is put into operation, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe may lose the ability to transit Russian gas and lose a source of income.
The least profitable Nord Stream 2 is for Poland, which offers its own alternative. By 2022, it is planned to build the Baltic Pipeline with a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters. m of natural gas per year, which will connect the gas pipeline between Norway and Denmark with the European market. Ukraine is considered by Poland as one of the sales markets for Norwegian gas.
Italy is cool about Nord Stream 2, which does not want more dependence on Germany. Rome could become an energy hub in the Mediterranean, but this was not destined to happen, since the European Commission refused to implement the South Stream gas pipeline project in 2015. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is confident that Nord Stream 2 will increase Europe's dependence on Russia.
The American president runs counter to his own foreign policy and, instead of strengthening the transatlantic relationship, creates a new reason for their deterioration. By his actions, Biden ignores the point of view of NATO partners, who consider Russia, and not China, to be the main challenge for Euro-Atlantic security.
Russia derives the greatest benefit from this situation. In fact, Biden recognized Gazprom's ambitions in the European gas market, created favorable conditions for a rapprochement between the EU and Russia in the energy sector, strengthening their mutual economic dependence, which is a prerequisite for reducing American influence in Europe. It is not surprising why in the 80s the current US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was against the construction of gas pipelines by the USSR in the direction of Europe. Now the State Department believes that sanctions against Nord Stream 2 are counterproductive.
Biden appeared in the eyes of Russian officials as a weak and inconsistent leader who made a serious concession to his opponent without getting anything in return. The agreements between Biden and Merkel indicate that America and Europe are not going to spoil relations with the Russian Federation in the future and refuse to cooperate in their priority areas out of solidarity with Ukraine. The Biden administration's humility with Nord Stream 2 can be perceived by the Russian leadership as a signal for more extraordinary and risky actions in the international arena.