Should Nord Stream 2 be stopped?

The Nord Stream 2 project is highlighting the conflict between Germany's energy and foreign policies like no other project before it: direct access to Russian gas on the one hand, annoying key partners in Europe and the US on the other. So far energy policy has taken priority, but the Navalny case is making this strategy more controversial than ever.

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Ukrayinska Pravda (UA) /

Kyiv should advertise its own pipeline

Commenting in Ukrayinska Pravda, Sergiy Solodkyy and Marianna Fakhurdinova of the think tank New Europe Center see an opportunity for Kyiv:

“Now it is important for Ukraine to make it clear via various channels that it has sufficient transit capacity and that our pipeline is technically sound. The completion and start-up of Nord Stream 2, on the other hand, would open up new opportunities for Russian aggression. ... In a nutshell, the issue now is not whether or not there will be sanctions, but how far-reaching they will be. And whether a new wave of restrictions will include a ban on the completion and operationalisation of Nord Stream 2.”

Denik N (CZ) /

Chancellor's efforts haven't paid off

There may now be a fundamental change in Merkel's policy towards Russia, Denik N speculates:

“One of the pillars of her policy was intensive economic, cultural, social and political cooperation with Russia. Germany and the Chancellor personally have invested an incredible amount of capital and reputation in their relations with Moscow. In view of the fact that high-ranking ministers of the German government and ultimately the chancellor herself have admitted that the poisoning of Navalny could lead to a reassessment of Germany's position on Nord Stream 2, it's possible that we are at the end of a long, promising but unfortunately unsuccessful journey.”

Sme (SK) /

Going ahead with the pipeline out of defiance

In Sme's view only one person can ensure the completion of Nord Stream 2:

“Only the friends of current lobbyist Gerhard Schröder in the SPD and the entire Left Party are still campaigning for the completion of the pipeline. The CDU and CSU are divided and the FDP and the influential Greens are in favour of discontinuing it. This comes as a surprise in the case of the Greens, who always advocated the construction of Nord Stream 2 so that nuclear power and coal could be eliminated. ... The main thing now is that Trump doesn't make any comments on the issue. What binds the Germans more closely to the Russian gas pipeline than Schröder and his gas lobby are Trump's demands that construction be stopped.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Germany shouldn't stoop to Putin's level

Berlin would be ill-advised to stop Nord Stream 2, says Die Presse:

“It is a strategic mistake to link the consequences of this action to a concrete private-sector project. Especially one that is so important for ensuring Europe's supplies. This would mean Germany stooping to the kind of political confrontation for which it has always criticised Vladimir Putin: using the economy to pursue power politics and assert national interests. It's all the more awkward that in this case doing so is actually diametrically opposed to its own - and Europe's - interests. ... When you consider that Germany will be phasing out nuclear power by 2023 and that it's in the process of taking its coal-fired power stations off the grid, it would be almost negligent to dispense with a direct supply of 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Berlin won't risk this friendship

Commenting in Phileleftheros, columnist Xenia Tourki has little hope that tough punitive measures will be imposed against Russia:

“It's clear that Berlin's special relations with Moscow will not deteriorate because of Navalny. They have not worsened despite the fierce controversies following the Crimean crisis in 2014, and German-Russian relations have never been frozen. The bond between the two countries is strong. So strong that Germany is willing to put the interests of its European partners second to avoid upsetting Russia.”

newsru.com (RU) /

Liberals prefer to make money rather than punish

In a Facebook post republished by newsru.com, political scientist Liliya Shevtsova explains why Europe is so reluctant to impose strict sanctions on Russia:

“Liberal democracies are not keen to lash out. Not only out of fear of retaliation from Russia, but because they fear that the Russian construct could start to collapse. And then what? Another important aspect is that liberal democracies are reluctant to hurt Russia because Russia is integrated into the Western economy and the Russian elite is also westernised. Russia's ruling class has long built up a protective wall within the West, consisting of an entire class that serves its needs. Ex-Chancellor Schröder, as Rosneft's errand boy, is one example. This means that the West's response is often nothing more than a soap bubble which just makes Moscow shrug and grin.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

Cut back gas imports

Europe has no choice but to reduce imports of gas from Russia, Kauppalehti insists:

“The US would benefit from sanctions directed against Russian gas. Understandably, during Trump's tenure that would be a bitter pill to swallow. But no matter how much one dislikes the current president, in the long term the US's interests are more important for Europe than Russia's. And that's precisely why gas imports from Russia should be reduced. ... The Nord Stream 2 pipeline can be completed, but gas purchases from Putin's cronies must be minimised to the point that it hurts. There's no doubt that such a blow will hit its target and be effective. Because it is precisely the revenues from energy exports that keep Putin and the elites close to him firmly in the saddle.”

Blick (CH) /

Pipeline stop can really hurt Moscow

No one should be taken in by Moscow's declarations, says Blick:

“Russia wrote the script long ago: first the poisoning attack was denied, now the investigations are being delayed. The next step is large-scale disinformation. ... Switzerland can no longer stand by and watch. And it has leverage: as a customer it can lobby Germany to stop construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. ... It would be relatively easy to suspend the controversial project, and it would be a tougher unilateral blow for Moscow than economic sanctions. Without the threat of concrete punishment, condemnation won't have any effect anyway.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

No election victory without warmth from Russia

Radio Kommersant FM weighs up the dilemma for Germany's political leaders:

“Berlin says that the gas pipeline is to be completed no matter what. On the other hand, there are more and more voices in the country saying that precisely this project must be cancelled because it is effectively a symbol of current Russian policy. But the Germans want to stay warm in the winter, and cheap energy is indispensable for them. For the politicians, success in the elections also depends on this. That is why it would be better if Russia explained itself. The Kremlin is only too aware of all these doubts and, let's face it, blatant weaknesses of the so-called 'collective West'. That's why no one there will be donning a sackcloth and ashes anytime soon.”

Obosrevatel (UA) /

Berlin takes a stance

Moscow is likely to retaliate if sanctions are imposed on Russia, political scientist Konstantin Eggert points out in Obozrevatel:

“The options include an exit from the Minsk Agreement, demonstrative support for Turkey (in the conflict with Greece) and Lukashenka in the fight against his own people, as well as mass arrests of Navalny supporters in Russia. That can evoke a guilt complex among the 'soft Europeans' and force them into further 'dialogue'. The German government has taken a very serious step in assuming responsibility for Navalny's fate. Now it's almost impossible for it to give up this moral responsibility without losses.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Merkel takes off the kid gloves

Der Standard detects a change of strategy in Merkel's dealings with Russia:

“A message of unprecedented clarity and severity went from Berlin to Moscow, with no hint of warm greetings. To put it undiplomatically, Merkel has had enough. Or: she is fed up with Moscow's evasiveness and innocent lamb attitude in the Navalny case. ... Merkel is no longer willing to leave it at the relatively well-dosed criticism she has meted out so far and is now taking a harder line. ... This is not a duel between her and Putin but a battle of values, and for this Merkel also wants to mobilise the EU. ... Taming Putin - or rather attempting to tame him - will perhaps be her last major effort during Germany's EU presidency.”

El País (ES) /

Does Moscow have its deadly arsenal under control?

The poisoning is by no means an internal affair for Russia, El País stresses:

“Russia is a nuclear power and the world has a right to know whether the toxic and radioactive materials it possesses are stored away safely and under control or whether, on the contrary, gangs of resentful and vengeful fanatics are using these resources for criminal activities that create global insecurity. Even the most moderate politicians in Germany are demanding an answer, although they insist on the need not to break off the dialogue with Moscow. ... Europe needs Russia, but not at the price of having to witness Putin's opponents die by poisoning.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

Myths from a German lab

The Russian state media outlet Ria Novosti lists several reasons that contradict the Novichok findings of the German military laboratory:

“It's difficult to say what is most surprising about the myth presented by the Germans: that a super-deadly poisonous agent has failed yet again to liquidate a person who is annoying to the Russian state - yet it stubbornly goes on using it? Or that Novichok, because of which almost half of Salisbury was torn down, was used against Navalny in an airplane without any consequences for the other passengers, the doctors or anyone else? Or that Russia allowed the blogger to go abroad for treatment - guaranteeing that it would be at the centre of an international scandal if the agent was detected?”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Russia can no longer be a partner

The German government cannot allow its relations with Russia to continue as they are, the Süddeutsche Zeitung insists:

“In offering medical assistance to Navalny, the government also assumed political responsibility. And its unequivocal response on discovering the nature of Navalny's poisoning shows that it is fully aware of this fact. For Germany and for the European Union, this is not the first, but yet another profound break in relations with Russia. Criticism, no matter how harsh, will not be enough. Nor will additional minor sanctions. Anyone who is convinced of the criminal nature of the Putin system will no longer be able to go on viewing it as a partner.”

nv.ua (UA) /

Support civil society, stop Nord Stream 2

Germany has several possibilities for taking a clear position now, explains Judy Dempsey of the think tank Carnegie Europe in nv.ua:

“If Berlin or Paris were to offer Navalny asylum it would free the Kremlin of another important dissident. Instead, the German government could support Russian civil society even more. ... And above all Merkel can stop Nord Stream 2 ... Germany has no political or economic reasons to make itself even more dependent on Russian energy. ... Continued participation in the project is a mockery of European and German policy, which is aimed at diversifying their energy sources.”

newsru.com (RU) /

Relations with Berlin have been poisoned too

Russia faces a serious dilemma, comments Kirill Shulika, blogger and deputy head of the right-wing liberal Democratic Choice party, in a Facebook post republished on newsru.com:

“Either Russia starts an investigation now, in which case even a formal procedure carries the risk of the authorities convicting themselves. Or there are new sanctions that make those imposed on Belarus look like child's play. Plus its relations with Germany are poisoned - like the relationship with Britain after the Skripal case. The propaganda was churned out non-stop: Look, the Germans are remaining silent. Now they are no longer silent: the poison has been found and they can repeat as much as they like that it's fake news, but apart from those who, in exchange for Russian state money, spread idiotic versions of the affair, no one in the world believes that anymore.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Putin won't do a thing

Putin still has an opportunity to prevent the West from adopting a harsher stance, La Stampa believes:

“This is the Kremlin's last chance to apply the brakes shortly before a clash that will likely result in new sanctions and diplomatic boycotts. ... Nonetheless such hopes may be dashed in the coming days. For in the two weeks that Navalny has spent in a coma the Russian government has denied even the fact that he was poisoned, rejecting all accusations with the argument it uses every time a Kremlin opponent is attacked: Putin is the one who suffers the most. Putin will not come out of this unscathed. But he is not doing the very thing that could help him, namely to find the guilty parties and punish them.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Even dying dissidents won't deter Merkel

Rzeczpospolita accuses the German government of double standards:

“When asked whether the Kremlin could be punished by Germany pulling out of the Nord Stream 2 project, as several influential representatives of Merkel's own party, the CDU, are demanding, the chancellor replied that the Navalny case should be dealt with as a separate matter. In other words: nothing, not even the sight of members of the Russian opposition dying in our arms, will deter us from intensive cooperation with the Kremlin.”