Germany draws another line in the sand for Biden
Exactly one week after the European Union’s long-awaited comprehensive investment agreement with China was announced on December 30, the Danish energy agency received a harmless, revised schedule for construction in the exclusive country’s economic zone from the Russian-led international gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 AG.
The DEA was notified: “Work on laying the pipeline is expected to resume on January 15th in Danish waters.”
Accordingly, Russia’s pipe-laying crane ship has Fortuna, which completed the construction of a 2.6 kilometer long section of the gas pipeline in Germany’s exclusive economic zone at the end of December Entry into Danish waters. To date, 94% of Nord Stream 2 has been completed.
In the meantime, two further developments have taken place in parallel. The Czech Republic has Republic announced that the so-called EUGAL motorway (European Gas Pipeline Link), the ground-based extension of Nord Stream 2 from the border with German-Saxony and ending in the west at a gas distribution center near the border with German-Bavaria, has been completed.
The 150-kilometer connection for 540 million euros (656 million US dollars) will bring Russian gas to Austria via the EUGAL motorway.
Then on January 6th it was disclosed that the state government in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – where the CDU is governed by Chancellor Angela Merkel – is establishing a special “Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection”, which will also “contribute” to the completion of Nord Stream 2. Project by acquiring and storing the equipment and materials needed to build the pipeline, which could protect the companies from threatened punitive action by Washington.
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is the landing point of the underwater pipeline from Russia.
The political message in all of this is clear. On January 4, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the German Press Agency (DPA) that Berlin would not give in to pressure from Washington in the dispute over Nord Stream 2, even after the transfer of power in the USA this month.
Problems will remain
Maas emphasized that Berlin “does not have to talk about European sovereignty if we are understood by it”. [Germany] do everything in the future as Washington wants. ”
He added that while Berlin hopes to improve US-German relations under Joe Biden, a flurry of disputes, including the Nord Stream 2 problem, will remain.
“The German government will not change its stance on Nord Stream 2,” he emphasized and added: “It is important that we are on the same line on the central strategic and geopolitical issues where we are on one side.”
The fact that the Nord Stream 2 project is important to ensure Germany’s energy security in the wake of the nuclear and coal phase-out is strongly supported by German industry and from across the political spectrum.
The prominent German MP Waldemar Herdt from the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) said last week: “Whatever the situation in America, one thing connects them all – a great aversion to a constructive and objective development of relations between Russia.” and Germany.”
US interference in German-Russian relations has been a long-standing phenomenon. Released archives of the former federal government show that Bonn imagined long-term energy diplomacy as a carefully built link to the former Soviet Union that guarantees cooperation even in political crises.
Energy diplomacy was a catalyst for Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik.
Natural gas pipelines in particular required mutual trust in a stable relationship, which would inevitably lead to further cooperation in other areas. Archival documents show that the pipeline from the Soviet era to Europe strengthened the cooperation between Bonn and Moscow, although it put a strain on the Federal Republic’s relations with the United States.
Nord Stream 2’s policy is immediately apparent. It has three templates.
A number of incidents
On the one hand, at the very end of her political career, Merkel pokes her neck out when the Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny was poisoned with one Nerve agent, behind which Germany probably put the Kremlin, is still a hot topic. Merkel remains convinced that only cooperation with Russia can prevent a total collapse of relations.
The Navalny poisoning is only the latest in a series of incidents that Germany has brought to Russia’s door, from the hacking attack on the German Bundestag’s computer system in 2015 to the murder of a Chechen rebel in Berlin last year.
Pressure has been built on Merkel from her own party and the opposition – and some EU countries and the US – to either impose a moratorium on Nord Stream 2 or to cancel it altogether, in order to send a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he has crossed a red line.
Nevertheless, Merkel decided not to cancel Nord Stream 2. Moscow, which has been promoting anti-German rhetoric lately, has been put to shame.
Second, both the EU-China investment agreement and the Nord Stream 2 saga are reminiscent of what French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview with Europe1 Radio on November 7th that the EU and the US do not agree Previously close ties would be enjoyed before Donald Trump’s presidency even with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the White House.
Le Drian said: “We are not going to go back to the status quo ante, to the good old days of transatlantic relations. The world has moved on after these four years. Europe is out of his greenness. It is beginning to assert itself as a power. ”
Certainly the Biden presidency will be a drastic relief for European officials who have struggled for good relations with Washington for the past four years, which has brought ties to unprecedented low levels.
We are a polarized country
Biden has an extensive network of contacts across Europe from his eight-year tenure in the Barack Obama administration. Everybody knows him. European officials feel relieved to have adult relationships again with people talking to one another rather than past one another.
However, Europeans cannot afford to assume that there will be no turnaround in 2024. In addition, like Ines Pohl, the Washington office manager of Deutsche Welle, wrote recently: “We will see a Biden government work hard to restore a sense of stability. Still, Biden’s government will rule a polarized country struggling with severe economic problems that deepen these divisions.
“We will see how the USA is consumed by domestic power struggles for years, even decades, and gradually giving up multilateral politics, especially in Europe. This trend will continue regardless of which party controls the White House. And that is a blatant reality that Europe and Germany have to acknowledge. “
Two weeks after Pohl wrote these words, the unrest in the US Capitol confirmed her prognosis. Germany and France will not hang out with the Biden government in a confrontation with Russia. They are even less likely to join the United States’ “Indo-Pacific Strategy” to contain China.
However, this does not preclude a substantial global “to-do” list waiting for EU leaders and Biden to work successfully – enhancing diplomacy as the main instrument of US foreign policy, renewed commitment to multilateralism and specific assurances to it NATO and the UN, re-entry into the Paris climate agreement and the Iranian nuclear agreement, renewed cooperation with the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, a global democracy summit, suppressing authoritarianism and corruption, promoting human rights and much more.
All of these are matters of great concern to Europe.
MK Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat.