Oksana Syroid: Launching Nord Stream 2 is equivalent to stripping Ukraine of its nuclear arsenal

Oksana Syroid: Launching Nord Stream 2 is equivalent to stripping Ukraine of its nuclear arsenal

Nord Stream 2 construction is planned to be finished until the end of 2019. Major construction works are already taking place in Germany and Finland, as Russia plans to use the pipeline for supplying Europe with gas, bypassing Ukraine. This pipeline is a development of the Nord Stream 1 project, which was put into operation in 2011. By using these two pipelines Russia will be able to transport 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Ukraine may be left out.

The economic and geopolitical aspects of the Nord Stream 2 will be the key topics of discussion during the Lviv Security Forum 2018 on October 24-26. The main theme of the Forum is “The Economy of War and the War of Economics”.

Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline project going from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea and extending over 1200 km.

We have talked with Oksana Syroid, Vice-speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the co-chair of Lviv Security Forum 2018 about the economic and political losses that Ukraine may suffer as well as about the possible security outcomes for our country.

– Two European countries are already building Nord Stream 2. Will Russia proceed with the works regardless of whether there will be a final agreement of all countries with access to the Baltic Sea?

For Russia, this project is not about economy, but about geopolitics. And that is why Moscow will do everything insolently as always. And, unfortunately, there are no diplomatic means to stop this process.

The aim of the Russian Nord Stream projects is to disintegrate the European Union. This is an occupation of Europe by Kremlin from within through the economic instruments. At the moment most Europeans do not acknowledge this despite Russian government being pretty clear about its goal. Putin has said is directly: if you want to have Russian gas, you will have to deal with Russia as a state.

On one hand, there is “Gasprom” – or, actually, the Russian state. On the other hand, the counteragents of the Nord Stream 2 projects are neither the European Union nor the European states, but private enterprises. So, on one side we have a global geopolitical interest of Russia and on the other side – a private corporate interest of the companies that think first and foremost about profits. Russia provided each of these companies with a possibility to be economically successful. Moscow allowed some of them to participate in the Nord Stream 2 and gave the others the right to develop gas fields on its territory. Thus, there is no global sovereign power to stop the execution of the Nord Stream project.

Possibly the only way to stop Russia is the joint decision of the European Union regarding the Nord Stream 2 and the relation with Russia in general. Many people in the European Parliament understand the danger of the Nord Stream. However, a decision should be rendered by the European Council. And this is a collective body consisting of the representatives of states, who represent the interests of the citizens of these countries. It is also being said that the construction of Nord Stream 2 could be avoided by the decision of the executive body of the European Union – the European Commission. Though in fact, everyone understands that there will be no such decision or it will not be able to stop the construction of a pipeline from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. Having hopes for such decision of the European Commission means having postponed and unsupported expectations. Objectively, unfortunately, it is very difficult to change something about the current situation.

– Is there really no way to counteract the economic expansion of Russia in Europe?

It is not always possible to get quick results here and now, however, it is necessary to do something. That is why we will be talking about it during the Lviv Security Forum.

After some time passes, the Europeans will understand the danger. It will happen when Russia will keep attempting to disintegrate Europe when the Europeans will feel the actual losses from participation in the Russian projects. These losses will be economic and political. And then Europe will start a different interaction with Russia, not like it does now. The faster it happens, the better both for Europe and Ukraine. 2

However, Ukraine has to act in this direction right now. The faster the official Kyiv starts formulating new strategies of interaction with Kremlin together with the EU member states, the better. Both for us and for Europe. Because the Europeans cannot manage it without Ukraine in this matter, since our gas transportation system may play a key role in counteracting the Russian economic and geopolitical expansion to the West. Ukrainian gas transportation system is the most powerful in Europe with the ability to transfer 146 billion cubic meters of gas from the Eastern to the Western border yearly.

So, can we stipulate that Ukraine has definitely lost?

Commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will deprive Ukraine of one more geopolitical shield. It can be compared to how our state was deprived of nuclear weapons in 1994. We believed in the effectiveness of the Budapest memorandum, according to which the US, Great Britain and Russia provided Kyiv with the guarantees of sovereignty and security in exchange for the abandonment of the nuclear arsenal. Everybody knows how Kremlin abides by the Budapest memorandum…

The current Ukrainian situation is not a loss for our country. The Ukrainians did not want it and couldn’t have known the meaning behind the Nord Stream project. It is criminal inaction of the current government and the President of Ukraine. Is this a loss in a fight? Obviously, no. Since neither the President nor the government had counteracted the execution of this Russian pipeline project. This is a capitulation of the President and the government before Russia. During the last four years, the current Ukrainian government did not do anything at all to resist Russia in this matter.

 The representatives of the Central European states – first of all, Poland and Slovakia – expected Ukrainian propositions regarding the management of our gas transportation system. Our neighbours understand that the Ukrainian gas transportation system is the key to the balance in supplying Russian gas to Europe. During the years after the Revolution of Dignity Ukraine did neither propose nor develop anything at all in order to use our gas transportation system more efficiently both for Ukraine and with benefit to Europe. Still, our people are being told about the creation of some “working groups on studying the issue”. This is mere words aimed to distract the attention of Ukrainian from their inactivity.

– But at the same time in Europe, we can hear about “guarantees for Ukraine” regarding the usage of our gas transportation system. In particular, this is the position of Angela Merkel.

This is the second important matter that concerns me. These talks about “guarantees” – is “Budapest memorandum-2”. And I have a feeling that this is not the idea of the German chancellor but the theses proposed to Merkel by our President. And she is only voicing it.

I think so because the first time Merkel spoke about these “guarantees” was after the meeting with Poroshenko dedicated precisely to Nord Stream. There were no concrete proposals from the President’s Administration regarding the usage of our gas transporting system in the new realm – namely after the execution of the Nord Stream.

And only after the first public speeches of Merkel regarding the “guarantees for Ukraine” Moscow notified that they are ready to have discussions with Ukraine about this issue. And there was an immediate reaction of the Ukrainian government. The Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Ihor Nasalyk made a statement out of the blue that it would be enough for Ukraine to transfer to the West 40 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas as a “transit guarantee”. This is why I make a conclusion that a certain combination was played in the interests of Russia. There was nothing about the actual interests of Ukraine. Our country was assigned the role of a walk-on.

We need to be aware: all our officials, who will be a part of negotiations regarding the transit of Russian gas through the territory of Ukraine, will be signing certain documents, will make it look like they trust the Russian “guarantees”, – all these people are traitors of Ukraine. If it would come to the signing of the papers about these hypothetical Russian “guarantees”– it will be the signing of “Budapest memorandum-2”. Those our officials who would agree to such an option will doom Ukraine and its citizens to a situation where one day we may be left without gas, heat and electricity.

 And the yearly loss in the amount of 3 billion US dollars for transporting of the Russian gas to Europe after the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 is not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is how do we save the Ukrainian gas transporting system altogether. I mean its modernization and the perspectives of its usage.

There is one more issue. It is necessary to stop gas theft in Ukraine since currently 4 billion cubic meters of gas is considered to be yearly technical losses. This is almost 25 percent (!) of the gas extracted in Ukraine. 4 billion cubic meters of gas is used yearly in Bulgaria!

Our Polish neighbours actively protest against the Nord Stream project. They explain all dangers of these projects to the Germans. Unfortunately, the German government does not listen to Warsaw and desires to have close economic ties with Russia. The Polish try to help Ukraine, however, there is a feeling that the Ukrainian government does not need it.

 – How exactly were the Polish trying to help and why does the official Kyiv ignore such propositions?

There is a terminal at the Baltic Sea shore in the Polish city of Świnoujście, where liquefied gas from USA and Qatar is being delivered. The Polish proposed our government a possibility to transport gas from Świnoujście to the territory of Ukraine. It would require constructing an additional pipeline from Poland. All Polish initiatives were not accepted by our government officials. It has been two years, however, on the Kyiv side there are only talks about some “preparation to start a working group”. So, there are no concrete results. And gas from Świnoujściecould become a real stable alternative to the dependency on the gas supplies from Russia.

– Is a pessimistic scenario possible, where after the launch of the Nord Stream 2 in full capacity the Ukrainian gas transportation system will not receive gas from Russia at all?

Unfortunately, such a scenario is not impossible. If the Nord Stream would become fully operational, Moscow could completely discard the Ukrainian gas transporting system approximately by 2021.

And, let’s say, some of the winters would be very cold … Ukraine’s own gas could be not enough. And Moscow would propose our President or our government some decision beneficial for them (and detrimental for Ukrainians). In case of refusal, “Gasprom” (meaning Kremlin) would close the system on the border with Ukraine and we would not receive any gas.

This is indeed a complex problem. We are talking about how to preserve the real Ukrainian sovereignty when more than 40 million Ukrainians may be deprived of light and heat.

However, I would like to highlight that in politics (in international politics too) there cannot be any finality, meaning any hopeless situations. Possibilities to change something are appearing and will be appearing. It is important to Ukraine to use such chances.

At the Lviv Security Forum 2017, we already discussed the topic of economic security for the country.

– In the situation where Russia increases its economic expansion in Europe, should Ukraine try to find strong allies in order to counteract together the Kremlin duress?

Definitely, it was necessary to search for such allies a long time ago. It turned out that even after 4 years of war when Ukrainians are holding back the Russian military aggression, Ukraine has no actual allies. We have partners that are ready to help us as “poor neighbours” that are always complaining and asking for something. Ukraine is not even trying to conduct a dialogue with other countries on the basis of equality. Our current government did not propose any serious mutually beneficial projects to any of our neighbour countries.

Americans may be and want to be our ally and partner, but our current government is more interested in being a petitioner. Hungary, Baltic countries, Scandinavian countries could be our partners and allies. But our government does nothing to create mutually beneficial political and economic relations with these countries.

Also, I would like to add as the co-head of the Ukrainian-Polish Parliamentary Assembly, I have already mentioned Poland’s proposal to help Ukraine with the gas supply from their port in Świnoujście. Nowadays, there is an opinion in Ukraine that the Polish only want to talk about the historic memory. I asked colleagues from Poland why. And I heard in response that it is the Ukrainians who do not speak about anything else nor propose anything. The Polish are telling me that Ukrainian officials do not want to talk about any economic initiatives. Therefore, such an impression is being created that the Polish discuss only the painful historic moments. Current Ukraine does not want or is unable to talk with Poland about anything else.

Ukraine and Poland constitute a strategic axis, which may be the basis for the continental security against the Russian threat. And it’s a pity that Kyiv does not understand it. Probably because the current Ukrainian officials are very different from colleagues from Poland. Regardless of political fights between the representatives of different political parties in Poland, no government in Warsaw will ever do anything to harm their country. Their highest officials do not transfer money to offshores, their politicians do not buy ridiculously expensive houses abroad and their children study and will live in Poland. We can only dream about the same in Ukraine.

But I am an optimist and I believe that the fate of Ukraine will be decided by 100% pro-Ukrainian politicians and officials, and time for inactivity or openly pro-Russian actions of the leaders of the state will remain in the past.