Nord Stream 2: who wins and who loses?

Berlin and Washington have settled their dispute over Nord Stream 2. The US will withdraw all sanctions in connection with the gas pipeline in return for Germany agreeing to support green energy projects that will make Ukraine less dependent on Russian gas. On the whole this is not a good solution for Europe, commentators write.

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Naftemporiki (GR) /

Berlin puts its own interests first

Germany has once again made its mark on Europe, writes Naftemporiki:

“Without knowing the details of the geopolitical moves at play in the region, it seems that the West has definitively abandoned Ukraine to Vladimir Putin's 'appetite' for energy and economic warfare. The big loser in this affair, however, is the European Union. Apparently, for Berlin, German interests take geopolitical and economic precedence over Brussels. As they did in the controversies with the Constitutional Court and over European funding programmes. Germany über alles.”

El País (ES) /

EU foreign policy at stake

The German Greens should continue to work together with Eastern Europe in opposing this project that is dividing the EU, advises business journalist Wolfgang Münchau in El País:

“The pipeline initiated by Gerhard Schröder is a symbol of the Russian-German friendship. At the same time, it is a symbol of European division. The Baltic states and Poland, as well as Ukraine, see it as a blatant violation of their security interests. ... I advise Poland and the Baltic states to continue opposing the pipeline with all legal and political means. And I advise the German Greens to support the Eastern Europeans. The EU's common foreign and security policy is at stake here.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Just saying no is not enough

Hospodářské noviny laments the completion of the pipeline but also criticises Poland and Ukraine:

“In three decades Poland has not managed to use cooperation with the allies to substantially reduce its dependence on Russian gas, for example through a joint north-south gas pipeline. ... Now Warsaw is building a gas pipeline from Norway. ... And in Kiev, the various interests of influential forces prevented the installation of meters on the gas pipelines on the border with Russia, which could prove how much gas disappears in Ukraine on its way westwards. Those who don't do their homework can hardly expect Europe and America to rescue them from the crisis.”

NV (UA) /

Nord Stream 2 will ultimately make China stronger

NV columnist Ivan Yakovyna discusses what Joe Biden was actually aiming for when he struck the deal:

“If sanctions were imposed, if Nord Stream 2 were not allowed to be completed, then Putin would turn towards China. And that would strengthen China: it would have a huge raw material base and vast areas to settle. ... And so according to Biden's way of thinking, Nord Stream 2 is like a tether connecting the European world to Russia. ... But such a policy will do nothing but strengthen Putin and his authoritarian regime. And as a result, relations between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China will ultimately become stronger, not weaker.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Pipelines for Europe's green energy transition

Nord Stream 2 is an investment in the future, says Der Standard:

“It would have been a fool's errand not to lay the last few kilometres of the pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Now reason has prevailed, and that's a good thing. ... The existing transit contract with Russia, which brings Kiev two billion dollars in transit fees per year, expires in 2024. ... It's in Europe's interest that Russian natural gas continues to flow through Ukraine and Poland even after Nord Stream 2 goes into operation: the more pipelines there are, the more secure the supply. Europe will be dependent on gas as a substitute for coal for some time to come. At some point in the future Nord Stream 2 could be used to transport hydrogen. Europe cannot get enough of that either in its energy transition.”

Duma (BG) /

Nothing to complain about

The pro-Russian daily Duma finds Ukraine's criticism of the agreement exaggerated:

“Ukraine's behaviour makes no sense. Because Ukraine retains its transit status and the opportunity to earn hundreds of millions on natural gas from Russia, which has otherwise been declared an enemy state. It makes even less sense when you consider that the reason for the gas dispute between Moscow and Kyiv was that Ukraine didn't pay for the natural gas it consumed. ... The real reason for Ukraine's reaction is that the Ukrainian rulers do not want to admit that their self-serving attempts to harm Russia have failed.”

Contributors (RO) /

Ukraine increasingly vulnerable

Contributors explains why Nord Stream 2 is indeed very much a problem for Ukraine:

“The problem is that instead of Ukraine being paid for its transit, the gas is now supposed to stay in Ukraine at a favourably negotiated price. If the gas is not delivered, this will hit its industry hard and jeopardise the supply to households. ... Ukraine's increasing energy dependence on Russia makes Kyiv much more vulnerable to political control by the Kremlin. What's more, the general acceptance of the occupation of Crimea, the establishment of new maritime borders and the repartition of the continental shelf in the Black Sea mean that Ukraine's hopes of benefiting from the natural gas reserves to which it is entitled have been dashed.”

Iswestija (RU) /

The US had to give in

Energy expert Alexander Frolov says in Izvestia that Washington had no choice but to go along with the pipeline:

“The US could only have forced the EU to abandon it if it had crossed a line behind which a full-blown trade conflict would have broken out. One consequence of such a conflict would have been to strengthen China's role on the continent. For economic reasons, the US couldn't allow that. ... Moreover, exerting further pressure on the European partners could have been counterproductive and ended in a loss of authority: what can you do if you exert major pressure but this pressure is ignored? Perhaps this means you're not as omnipotent as people generally assume?”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Kyiv left high and dry

The compromise reached in Washington clearly comes at Ukraine's expense, the taz observes:

“While Germany and Russia get something concrete, namely Nord Stream 2, Ukraine comes away with nothing but promises. But what happens if the political climate changes in ten years' time and the big players see the promises made to Kiev in a different light? People in Ukraine are keeping a close eye on just how quickly the US is getting rid of its troublesome allies and local forces in Afghanistan. ... In this context it's not surprising that China is becoming increasingly important for Ukraine.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Take responsibility towards Eastern Europe seriously

Germany has a duty to the governments in Kyiv, Warsaw, Tallinn and Riga, writes Die Presse:

“They had and have good arguments for their position, not least Europe's vulnerability to blackmail by a Kremlin leadership that can cut off its gas supply at will. ... It will now be up to Germany to handle its responsibility towards the Eastern European states carefully, to insist on the built-in security clauses - especially for Ukraine - and to use them if necessary.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Germany hugely important for Biden

This is not the first time that Biden has been willing to make concessions to Berlin, Corriere della Sera points out:

“Immediately upon taking office Biden sought closer cooperation. In July 2020, Trump had ordered the withdrawal of 12,000 of a total of 36,000 US military personnel from German bases. But in February 2021 Biden revoked the order: the forces were to remain intact. The president has refrained from accusing Berlin of spending too little on military defence. Instead he has tried to form an axis with Merkel focused on new priorities: climate change, economic recovery and the fight against Chinese expansionism.”

Vzglyad (RU) /

A building block for green energy

Vzglyad attributes the fact that Berlin has been so persistent on this matter to Germany's energy transition ambitions:

“Germany sees Nord Stream 2 mainly from the perspective of renewable energies. ... In the transition phase, gas will have to replace the capacities of nuclear and coal-fired power plants that are being eliminated. In the future, the gas pipeline is also to be used to transport hydrogen. ... But to realise their ambitious energy plans, Germany and the EU need the US as a partner. The transition to new energy sources must be global - or at least cover most of the world's economy. Otherwise there is a risk of losing the economic competition to those who stick with traditional hydrocarbons.”