Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline nears completion. If successful, it will thwart America’s attempt to free the European Union from its dependency on Russian energy, including by undermining the Intermarium project’s U.S.-backed energy hubs and terminals in strategic locations between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas.
Simply, Nord Stream 2 will be a giant step to unmake our supremacy in Europe.
Part of the problem is that Germany wants Nord Stream 2. Berlin has long colluded with Moscow. The short-term objective is to build the pipeline. The long-term objective is to emancipate the Germans from American overlordship resulting from our victory in the Second World War.
To that end, Germany argues, first, that Russia deserves NS-2 because of all the Nazi atrocities it endured between 1941 and 1945. Did the Polish wartime experience somehow exempt it from deserving energy security? How?
Second, Angela Merkel’s government and its domestic allies have framed the NS-2 question not as an American bid to keep Germany in her place but, rather, as a problem of European sovereignty.
According to The New York Times (12 March 2021), “Even if many Europeans dislike Nord Stream 2, they are driven to defend it by Washington’s use of secondary sanctions to punish European companies and even cities, like Sassnitz,” As a German expert put it, “The EU sees it as an attack not just against a city but against the EU as a whole.”
Further, Germany also meddles in the Intermarium to undercut its bid for energy independence. For instance, Berlin strenuously opposes Poland’s plan for nuclear power. It looks askance at the Baltic Pipeline, a project to connect the Polish market with the Norwegian energy suppliers.
The Germans further dislike the idea of American LNG directed to a hub in Poland. Angela Merkel’s government blesses “green” energy, so long as Poland receives it from the EU, aka Germany.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin is eager to capitalize on Europe’s energy dependency. Moscow has sensed its moment has arrived again and keeps up the pressure to finalize the Nord Stream 2 project. Thus, it not only takes advantage of a rather lightweight Joe Biden’s foreign policy and national security team and a volatile international situation, in particular simmering tensions between Communist China and Taiwan, but Moscow also creates crisis opportunities on its own to secure its strategic goals.
NS-2 seems to be the Kremlin’s priority at the moment.
Vladimir Putin has violated Danish territorial waters in the process of constructing the pipeline. He has consistently poked the Swedes and Norwegians through a series of submarine and overflight provocations. Such incursions have become nearly routine in the Baltics, with NATO forces intercepting Russian bombers and fighters and interfering with other instances of sea and land border violations.
In addition, Moscow has ordered its troops deployed and reshuffled along the entire western border of the Russian Federation. Most notably, this concerns its eastern Ukrainian dependency and newly conquered Crimea, where an unusually strong troop concentration is underway.
Consequently, war drums resound; Kyiv is quite scared. NATO is concerned. The EU has limited itself to issuing impotent protests as always.
No one in the U.S. wants to die for Ukraine. We have enough on our plates.
So far, at least publicly, the White House has been channeling Donald Trump.
“President [Joe] Biden has been very clear, he believes the pipeline is a bad idea, bad for Europe, bad for the United States, ultimately it is in contradiction to the EU’s own security goals,” Antony Blinken reassured our NATO allies during his last visit to the EU. The Biden administration has also loudly declared its support for Ukraine’s integrity and independence.
And what? Not much. By one account Biden has even scrapped the plans to send U.S. ships to the Black Sea to swagger. At most there will be sanctions.
For now there are calls for “quiet diplomacy,” both as far as Ukraine and, particularly, in regards to the contentious NS-2 pipeline. As The New York Times put it, “That is a lesson Mr. Biden seems to have accepted, wanting to settle the issue and move on to better relations with powerful Germany — if Congress will let him.”
We should remember that the drivers of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia stem essentially from the same Obama team that got caught flat-footed by Putin’s invasion of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Like elsewhere, the team members talked big about “crossing red lines,” and so forth. That was all an empty babble.
It is really hard to see the will, resolve, acumen, skill, and heart of the Biden administration to stop Putin at any point, whether as far as Ukraine or NS-2. I strongly hope that I am wrong.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe’s Three Seas region; author, among others, of “Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas.” Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz’s Reports — More Here.
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