Will Nord Stream pipeline force Ukraine to forget about the Russian gas

The construction of the Nord Stream 2 project for the transportation of Russian gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine is a fact.

Although ideologists and opponents of this large-scale project have heated discussions, ships are building pipelines on the Baltic Sea shore near the German city Lubmin. At the bottom of the sea,  pipelines for transporting gas from the Jamal peninsula in Russia are being constructed. According to the developers of the project, all construction works should end in 2019. We are talking about 1200 kilometres of the pipeline with the planned ability to transfer 55 billion cubic meters per year.

The perspectives of Ukraine after the launch of the Nord Stream 2 will be one of the main topics of the Lviv Security Forum which will take place in Lviv on October, 24-26.

Information about the beginning of the construction of another gas pipeline from Russia to Germany through Baltic is, of course, important first of all for Ukraine. The Nord Stream 2 will be built practically as a parallel to the Nord Stream pipeline, which is already used to supply Europe with Russian gas from 2011. The planned transporting ability of Nord Stream 1 is also 55 billion cubic meters per year.

The danger of “zero transit” and terroristic attacks

When both pipelines will be fully operational, the future of the Ukrainian gas transporting system currently used to transfer most of the Russian gas to Europe will become very unclear. At the moment, Kyiv receives USD 3 billion per year for the transportation of the gas. And this sum amounts to 8% of the revenue of the state budget for this year. And this is not the only problem. The question is, what will happen next to the Ukrainian gas transporting system, which is able to transfer 146 billion cubic meters from the Eastern to the Western border yearly.

Our highest officials are openly talking about the “dangerous ambiguity of the perspectives” of the Ukrainian gas transporting system. Thus, the business development director of the NAK Naftogaz Yuriy Vitrenko admits: “Ukraine practically does not have a chance to stop the execution of the Nord Stream 2… When Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream (this is one more Moscow project on transporting gas to Southern Europe –ed.) are completed a big probability exists that the transit of gas through Ukraine will amount to zero at once”.

And the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin is convinced that Russia would definitely stop supplying gas to Europe through the territory of our state after the Nord Stream is launched. He believes that the termination of the Russian gas transit may happen “starting from some manipulations, such as “gas wars”, and ending with some terroristic attacks”.

“Divide and conquer” according to Russian scenario

“The aim of the Russia project Nord Stream 2 is the disintegration of the European Union. It is a sort of occupation of Europe from within by the Kremlin. Currently, most Europeans do not see it, though the Russian government is not hiding its goal. Putin said it openly: if you want to deal with Russian gas, you will have to deal with Russia as a state”, –Oksana Syroid, the Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is convinced.

Indeed, Putin’s Kremlin if not openly proclaimed then did not try to conceal that the energy policy of Moscow is and will be at the centre of Russian diplomacy. This point is clearly stated in the energy strategy of Kremlin, authorized by Putin back in 2003. Since then, Russia confidently step-by-step executes its tasks. And it looks like it has not met any resistance in its economic-gas expansion.

The Ukrainians could (and should) appeal to the European countries, saying “please, wake up, do not fall into a gas trap build by the pathologically deceitful Moscow.” The Europeans seem to hear us, however, they are probably more interested in the perspective gains from the gas deal with the Russians than in the arguments of Kyiv. Another issue is that the Ukrainian government is not able to do anything besides words (statements, appeals etc.) Or doesn’t want to?

“The situation, which will be created for Ukraine during the launch of the Nord Stream 2 is the loss of our government. Itistheillegal inaction of the current government and the President, since neither the head of the state nor the government did not actually counteract the execution of this Russian gas transporting project. This is a capitulation before Russia. During 4 years the current Ukrainian government did absolutely nothing to resist Kremlin in this matter”, –Oksana Syroid stated.

According to the development plans, all construction works on the Nord Stream 2 should end in 2019

The Deputy Speaker supports her strong statement with the following: “The representatives of the Central European states –first of all, Poland and Slovakia –expected Ukrainian propositions regarding the management of our gas transporting system. Our neighbours understand that the Ukrainian gas transporting 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 to use our gas transporting 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 Ukrainians from their inactivity”, –Oksana Syroid says.

Petro Poroshenko stated that “Ukraine is having negotiations with the European Union countries on creating a group, which should stop the construction of the Russia gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. Ptero Oleksiyovych called the new pipeline project “completely political, which has no economic substance, which tries to take away from Ukraine a budget amounting to USD 3 billion.

And in early June the guarantor of the Ukrainian Constitution expressed much more optimism regarding the construction of the pipeline from Russia. “I believe that Nord Stream 2 will not have a significant effect on the Ukrainian economy. Because there will be no Nord Stream 2. I am sure that we will be able to stop it with joint efforts”, –Poroshenko convinced during the meeting with the students of the Kyiv Taras Shevchenko University.

How Europeans have a quarrel with Europeans, and with Americans, too

Obviously, when speaking about “joint efforts” the President had in mind some strong consolidated position of the European countries that are not fond of the Nord Stream 2. It’s important to note that our government officials talk about an attempt to organize a joint position with the Europeans (albeit talk loudly) only now. It’s as if all the “gas” plans of Moscow became public only now like the Nord Stream 1 has not been functioning for 7 years. Like it is a secret that Moscow will pay any price to prevent Ukraine’s economy from growth.

However, is it realistic to count on an efficient resistance to Kremlin when the issue of new pipeline evidenced the distinct contradictions between the EU member states?

Germany was the first among the European countries to say ‘yes’ to the Nord Stream 2 construction paperwork. The German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel tries to keep a neutral stand. More precisely, she is supporting the Nord Stream 2 project but she is against the termination of the Russian gas transit through Ukraine. Finland and Sweden are believed to be in favor of the project. Finland agreed to the building of the pipeline in April and Sweden –at the beginning of June, these countries companies are the shareholders of the Nord Stream 2.

Denmark is one of the most influential opponents of the project. This country still hasn’t provided official permission for the pipeline construction. The Danish Prime Minister made a clear statement: we will allow it only in case Russia will guarantee the continuance of the transit through Ukraine. But how long will small Denmark be able to resist the pressure of Moscow and its supporters from Europe?

Poland and the Baltic countries sharply oppose the Nord Stream 2. The Polish, similar to Ukraine, may lose money from the transit of the Russian gas to Germany, and Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia fear not without ground that if Russia receives direct pipeline connection to Europe, it will stop taking them into account at all.

The USA is strongly against the construction of the Nord Stream 2. The White House is threatening the participants of these projects with sanctions, first of all against the shareholders from Germany. Therefore, there are all reasons to conclude that Nord Stream 2 creates problems not only for Ukraine but also increases the tensions between the European countries and the USA. It is not difficult to assume that Kremlin is happy about it.

“Russia will build the pipeline regardless of the final agreement of all countries. For Russia this project is not economic, it’s geopolitical. And that is why Moscow will do everything suddenly and by force, in the usual Kremlin’s way. And, unfortunately, there are no diplomatic ways to stop this process, –Oksana Syroid, the Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine believes.

–Ontheotherhand, the counter agents 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 about profits in the first place. 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 in its territory. Thus, there is no global sovereign power to stop the execution of the Nord Stream project.

Nord Stream 2 –is 1200 kilometres of the pipeline with project capacity of55 billion cubic meters per year

Despite the sad perspectives of gas transit to Europe, Ukraine should not give up. Wewillnottry to propose concrete solutions to our officials. However, we would like to allow ourselves to make an observation that mere appeals and hopes for European partners are, apparently, not enough. The Ukrainian government has to finally make actual more efficient steps, which would prove that it is more profitable for Europe to use our gas transporting system. It is necessary to finally make other countries interested in joint management of our gas transporting system together with Kyiv and increasing the extraction of Ukrainian gas.

The official statistic also allows no to become completely pessimistic, as it shows that even two Nord Streams combined will be not enough to satisfy European demand with Russian gas. Both new pipelines from Yamal can transport not more than 110 billion cubic meters per year. And, for instance, in 2017, the European Union countries used 194,4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas. Therefore, Russia would have to supply a significant part of this strategic resource to the West in some other way (apart from the ‘Northern way’). Why not through the Ukrainian gas transporting system?

But probably, in order for it to happen, our diplomats and government officials would have work wisely. Currently, everything is working out almost without any obstacles for Russia. However, the aggressiveness of Russians may influence the countries that currently support the Nord Stream. And Kyiv should not miss such opportunities. But it is necessary to actually do “something” and not just produce statements about “hopes for support”.

Because in fact, USD 3 billion equals the current yearly defence expenditures of Ukraine used to counteract Russia. And the issues are not only about the money (albeit significant for such a country like ours). In 2019, the 10-year agreement on the transit of Russian gas to the European Union through the territory of Ukraine is expiring. Our gas transporting system has the biggest capacity in Europe and the biggest number of gas storage facilities. If our gas transporting system will not be filled with gas, the prognosis of Kremlin’s servant Nikolay Azarov (former Prime Minister of Ukraine during Yanukovych’s presidency) when he suggested to “cut the Ukrainian gas transporting system to scrap metal” might come true. We do not want to believe that our highest public officials that came to power after the Revolution of Dignity would participate in making this prophecy made by an anti-Ukrainian figure, who fled to Russia, true.