27.12.2021 Author: Salman Rafi Sheikh

The Geopolitics Surrounding Nord Stream 2

NS2

Multiple US interests continue to hinder the completion of Nord Stream 2 project and its uninterrupted supply of gas to Germany/Europe. For the US, Nord Stream project is, to a great extent, a tool to privatise European gas-markets for US gas supplies. While the Joe Biden administration was quick to waive sanctions on the project that the Trump administration had imposed, this wavier was, as we now know, but a prelude to a more indirect strategy of sabotaging the project that can deliver up to 15 per cent of the annual EU gas needs. In this context, the hysteria the US is creating vis-à-vis a possible Russian “invasion” of Ukraine also feeds directly into the way the US hopes to sabotage the whole project.

For instance, when the Biden administration entered into an agreement with Germany’s Angela Merkel to waive sanctions, Washington was shrewd enough to insert a clause that obliges Berlin to block the pipeline if Russia uses it as a weapon against Ukraine. While there is no question of whether or not Russia is actually using the pipeline as a weapon against Ukraine (the project is not yet operational), the on-going crisis the US has generated around Ukraine-Russia border has allowed Washington to paint Russia as an “aggressor” in the region to push Germany to “consider” blocking the gas pipeline.

Although this crisis is nothing but a direct result of the concerted US/NATO effort to expand NATO to Ukraine to encircle Russia, the US efforts to link this crisis with Nord Stream 2 project speaks volumes about how the US wants to keep Europe within its own orbit. Germany’s new administration seems to have walked directly into the US trap. In this context, the recent expulsion of two Russian diplomats posted to Berlin on dubious grounds most likely set Russia back even further. The German ministers have lately been speaking harshly about Russia in the context of Moscow’s tensions with NATO and the US.

As a matter of fact, the US does want to expand NATO and generate a crisis in Europe to keep the EU tied to Washington and prevent it from developing a European security force. Moreover, given Ukraine’s dependence on its earnings of US$ 1 billion from the pipeline running across its territory, there’s no disputing that once it loses this income it will become even more of a liability for the US and the EU. To prevent this, the new German administration is already involved in intense deliberation to develop a framework of sanctions on Russia.

In other words, the Ukrainian issue is already working well for the US, as far as the US interest in dominating European geo-politics is concerned. The on-going crisis has disrupted the timely operationalisation of Nord Stream 2, creating a ‘gas crisis’ in Europe. The US is fully benefitting from this situation. Already, at least 30 tankers with liquefied natural gas from the United States have changed course to Europe.

Rising gas prices across the EU mean that US gas suppliers will be making more money in Europe than anywhere else. This is, in short, an operationalisation of what Washington calls “freedom gas” for Europe as compared to the supplies of “unfree” gas from Russia.

While Russia has historically been Europe’s biggest gas supplier, the US share has been modest. Washington, therefore, aims to enhance its share and capture a lucrative market; hence, its propaganda against the “unreliability” of Europe’s existing supply sources. That this was always the plan is evident from how the US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said in September 2021 that the rise in prices had “raised serious concerns and questions on the reliability of the existing supply and security in Europe”. “We and our partners have to be prepared to continue to stand up where there are players who may be manipulating supply in order to benefit themselves,” she added. A deliberate demonisation of Nord Stream 2 is, thus, a part of Washington’s policy of reducing European dependency on Moscow and enhance the continent’s dependency on Washington.

In other words, while Washington fears that the EU will find a way to redefine its ties with Moscow, it aims by enhancing its own supplies to the EU to achieve the goal it says that Russia is pursuing, namely to make Europe dependent on the US. This dependency is going to be quite similar to how NATO is a captive market for US arms export.

The fact that the question of both NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and Nord Stream 2 project involves key US mechanisms of dominating European politics leave the latter very much a captive US territory, dependent upon the US for its broader military and economic security.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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