Nord Stream 2 Political Weapon

by Alicja Szczepkowska

 

Is Nord Stream 2 a political weapon against Poland and other neighboring Baltic nations?

The construction of Nord Stream 2 is underway despite strong opposition from not only neighboring countries such as Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Slovakia, but also from the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed his disapproval of Nord Stream 2 by claiming that Russia will have unwarranted power over Germany while alienating other European nations.

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a press conference in Warsaw with Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz during which he elaborated on his stance related to the project. Pompeo criticized the project, insisting that Nord Stream 2 is a threat to European energy security since “natural gas is Russia’s political weapon.” According to Business Review, the Polish Foreign Minister communicated that  “We [the U.S. and Poland] share the view that the Nord Stream 2 project does not serve Europe’s energy security, we consider it a failed project, even harmful to energy security on the continent.”

In recent years, Poland has taken several steps to reduce its dependence on Russia for natural gas. According to the State Department, Poland has made “impressive efforts to expand and diversify its sources of energy.” For example, investing in infrastructure, including a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal named “Clean Ocean” in Świnoujście, Poland, where U.S. shipments first started arriving in June of 2017. In addition, in late 2018, Poland signed a 24-year liquefied natural gas deal with the U.S. to further decrease its energy dependence on Russia. This contract will not take complete effect until 2022 when Poland’s present contract with Russian gas company, Gazprom, will conclude. Hence, according to AP News, “under the deal, Poland will receive some 700 million cubic meters of gas from 2019 through 2022, and 39 billion cubic meters from 2023 through 2042.” Furthermore, by 2022, LNG will also be delivered to Poland from Denmark and Norway via the Baltic Pipe gas line, according to UAWire. Poland’s offense against Nord Stream 2 will persist as the nation continues to take steps to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas.

According to the Washington Post, Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania were 100% dependent on Russian gas until quite recently, but now “Finland and Estonia are building the Balticconnector, a major new pipeline between the two countries that could bring natural gas from the United States and other nations to Finland.” This proves to show that Poland is not the only country taking steps to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

While Poland’s offense against Nord Stream 2 persists as the nation continues to take steps to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas, other European countries as well as allies are also taking steps to control  the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. According to UNIAN News, “Representatives from the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on February 12 agreed on draft amendments to the EU Gas Directive, which will regulate, among other things, the Nord Stream 2 project.” Back in December, European Union lawmakers called for the cancellation of Nord Stream 2 in a non-binding resolution. This resolution reinforced opposition, but had no legal power as it only strengthened the EU’s resistance toward the project.

Despite great opposition from European countries and the United States as well as efforts to stop Nord Stream 2’s construction entirely, the project remains on schedule to be finished by November 2019. This “political weapon” as referred to by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is suspected to become a major threat to European energy and national security. There is no doubt that European nations will suffer the repercussions since they import billions of cubic meters of gas from Russia. Ukraine, in particular, will be impacted the most since Russia’s project will completely exclude it from the gas business and ultimately plunge the country into another economic crisis.

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Alicja Szczepkowska is an intern at the Polish American Congress and an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign majoring in Global Studies and Sociology.

 

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