World leaders, including new US President Joe Biden, used a special edition of the Munich Security Conference last week to send a strong signal about transatlantic innovation. They herald a new honeymoon in transatlantic relations and pledge together to tackle global challenges like today’s pandemic or climate change.
However, some people think that what they don’t say is as important as what they say. A particularly noteworthy omission is Nord Stream 2, a pipeline of natural gas from Russia to Germany.
While it may not fit the rhetoric at this point, Nord Stream 2 remains one of Germany’s biggest foreign policy challenges and needs to be addressed urgently. For if it dulls, the current standoff risks turning into a diplomatic ship, damaging Germany’s relations with its eastern neighbors, other EU members, and the United States.
Whether or not piping really is a private enterprise is no longer appropriate. The problem is perception – and these are fundamentally inclined to treat the pipeline as anything but a highly strategic issue that threatens to cancel years of German investment in European unity and transatlantic.
There are no good options on the table right now, but trying to ignore rising criticism is a particularly bad option. Even if Berlin could deal with criticism within the EU, the Biden administration would certainly not want to be seen as stepping lightly on Russia, just weeks after inauguration. As is the case with Chinese policy, there is a broad consensus against Nord Stream 2 in both houses of Congress, which the White House certainly won’t want to alienate. In other words: Just having the pipeline done without considering the surrounding concerns, Germany will risk ending its transatlantic honeymoon before it can develop into a trusting relationship. mutual real long-term return.
Choosing to stop construction of the pipeline at this final stage through German government intervention is an equally bad idea, even if one is willing to accept painful lawsuits, with a real prospect. Billions of dollars in harm to Gazprom and an unfinished pipeline at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Like it or not, Germany and other European countries will continue to demand Russian gas for many years to come. For decades, the German government has been able to point out that Russia is a reliable supplier and does not use the gas relationship as a tool of political leverage against Germany and her NATO allies. that. If Germany now stops the pipeline project for political reasons, Russia will certainly feel the right to retaliate.
Some have proposed a suspension order. But very little if anything will be achieved with a postponement order. If the lifting of the ban involves changes in Russian policy and behavior, we will face a classic dilemma. In other words: If Russia refuses to make the required concessions, Berlin will have to react and even cancel the pipeline entirely if it wants to avoid losing face.
But there may be a slightly less attractive option, to complete the construction of the pipeline while adjusting its use according to EU decisions and Russian behavior. For this to work, three steps are needed:
First, Berlin may offer to install an emergency brake mechanism with EU participation, which can be activated to stop the flow of the pipeline if Russia breaches the agreement regarding relaying. Continued use of gas transport infrastructure of Ukraine. This would undoubtedly be seen as a significant and welcomed measure of confidence – in Kiev as well as in Warsaw and Brussels.
Second, Germany may propose a “Euro-Atlantic Energy Treaty.” The goals of such a comprehensive approach, including the EU and its Eastern European neighbors as well as transatlantic partners, could include:
providing resources in the ongoing energy transformation and innovation that drive the transition from fossil fuels to renewables;
further consolidation of the integrity of the European gas market;
and strengthen Ukraine’s support in its mission of territorial integrity and economic development. Even Gazprom and the Kremlin could find it more helpful to get involved than to oppose such a project.
Third, Berlin could let Gazprom, the builder and the owner of the pipeline, know that political opposition to the project in Germany and from Germany’s European and trans-Atlantic partners, had increased. so significant that Berlin no longer considered it politically feasible to actually allow the air valve. will be opened upon completion of the pipeline. Berlin could point out that bilateral relations with Russia are continuing to deteriorate and that there are still many unresolved dispute points, from hacks and disinformation operations, to the Navalny uproar and assassinations were carried out by Russia over the territory of the EU states, until Moscow was not ready to facilitate political solutions, including in conflicts in Donbass or Georgia.
The German message needs to be clear: It is up to Russia now to help recreate the political climate and the atmosphere that could help Berlin green light the gas stream. Berlin can explain in detail what factors, together, could allow Germany (and the EU) to move forward. One might call this activity: Passing (Nord Flow 2) to Moscow. That’s where it belongs.
Whichever approach it takes, Berlin should work closely with the European Commission, with its counterparts in Eastern Europe and with the United States to keep the new transatlantic affair going on and turning a mortar. completely unnecessary grinding around the German neck into an East-West strategy. chess pieces in negotiation.