A Russian pipeline threat to European security

by SOHRAB AHMARI

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Western Europe’s liberal powers like to lecture the poorer countries to their east on “European values” and “European solidarity.” But when it comes to the Continent’s strategic defense, especially against Russian aggression, the nations of Central and Eastern Europe often find themselves standing alone while the West happily cuts deals with Moscow. A case in point is the debate over the Russian-backed Nord Stream II natural-gas pipeline.

Nord Stream II is a joint project of Gazprom, the Vladimir Putin-linked Russian energy giant, France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall. Running on the Baltic seabed, it would allow Russia to pump 55 billion cubic meters of gas directly into Germany, bypassing land routes over Poland and Ukraine. Moscow insists the project is “purely commercial,” as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this month.

But Russia’s ambitions are never purely commercial. Putin never misses the geopolitical angle.

For Moscow, Nord Stream II kills two birds with one stone. The pipeline helps the Kremlin expand its energy dominance over Europe. It also isolates Ukraine, Poland, and other Russian-endangered states on the Continent’s eastern periphery. As Polish Secretary of State Anna Maria Anders told me in an interview recently, “once more Poland finds itself between Germany and Russia. It’s a fear shared by Eastern Europe since 1939—that we would be cut off.”

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