Why Europe won’t issue Russia Nord Stream 2 ultimatum

Russia: Expert discusses Nord Stream and Navalny

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With well over 100,000 Russian troops now thought to be stationed on Ukraine’s doorstep, Europe has become divided into a pro-Russian camp and a pro-Ukrainian side. Threats have been issued by both to try and pacify the other.

A key threat used by Moscow and the West is the buying and supplying of natural gas.

A staggering 40 percent of all the natural gas Europe burns through daily is supplied by Russia.

Much of this is supplied through the Nord Stream pipeline. This pipeline runs directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea by-passing transit countries, such as Ukraine and Poland.

Ukraine and Poland have been pushing Germany to cancel Nord Stream 2, which was the second pipeline laid alongside Nord Stream 1.

But Emily Holland, Assistant Professor at the US Naval War College explained to Express.co.uk that although the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has “been really politicised in this crisis”, simply stopping it would be illogical – both from Russia’s perspective and Europe’s.

She said: “It’s much more complicated than just saying no to the pipeline or not, because Europe is extremely dependent on Russian natural gas for its energy.

“Unfortunately what Europe has learned over the past decade – and particularly now because Europe is in an energy price crisis – is that replacing those supplies from Russia is not easy.

“The natural gas market in the world is very tight right now. There’s a lot of demand not just from Europe but from Asian consumers too that has really driven prices up.

“So any extra gas that’s on the market, and this is what we call liquified natural gas, is really expensive and it’s got a lot of buyers vying for it.

“So even if Europe was able to say we are not going to buy Russian gas anymore, well there’s just simply not enough spare gas to supply Europe or the infrastructure to get it to the consumers. So it’s really impossible to replace Russian gas over the next 20 years.”

Nord Stream 2 has already been built and is just waiting for final technical German certification before it can be used.

Even though Dr Holland admitted that a refusal by Berlin to approve the project would “signal to Russia this aggressive behaviour has to stop”, such powers might be beyond Olaf Scholz’s capabilities.

She said: “It isn’t really within the German government’s hands to get involved in that process. The certification process is already ongoing.

“They can interfere and say to the federal agency that is doing the certification ‘Hey, stop it’, but actually they might be risking a legal challenge.

“The federal government says it doesn’t want to be liable to such damage for cancelling a pipeline illegally, because actually this pipeline hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s followed all the rules. This is a joint project between many European partners and Russia, so cancelling it would not only hurt Russia but its European partners too.

The halting of gas supplies from Russia by either Europe or Moscow could create a devastating financial crash in Europe.

Dr Holland warned: “There would be devastating economic consequences in Europe there would have to be prioritisation, rationing, gas shutdowns industry shutdowns, so it’s literally not possible to replace Russian gas over the medium term I would say over the next five [years] to 2050.”

But this crash won’t be limited to Europe as its ripples would be felt globally.

She explained: “It would be completely devastating not just to the European economy, but it would drive up gas prices all over the world considerably.

“So it would make all these LNGs, [liquified natural gas supplies], in Asia super expensive, and it would drive developing countries like Bangladesh out of the market altogether and then what would happen?

“It would really be a global economic catastrophe. So the US can say we’ll help Europe but it’s just a very small slice of the story that they’re looking at.”

But thankfully this global crisis may be avoided.

Although Dr Holland described gas as more Russia’s weapon than the West’s, she concluded: “It would be completely illogical and irrational for Putin to cut off gas supplies to Europe. There’s no interest whatsoever for Russia to do so.”

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