I had this crazy dream last night. It must have been next year sometime, because it was the opening ceremony for the Nord Stream II pipeline, in Germany. President Putin was there for the ribbon-cutting ceremony (naturally), flanked by a beaming Gerhard Schroeder and Donald Tusk. Maros Sefcovic was aglow with bonhomie as he presented the ceremonial silver shears, and a beaming Petro Poroshenko, backed by members of the Atlantic Council, applauded politely as Mr. Putin stepped forward to cut the ribbon. As the two cut ends fluttered to the floor, a pig flew in through the open window, and described a lazy parabola around the ceiling fixture. Stroking past me, it executed a casual barrel-roll, winked, and burst into a cloud of red sparks: Lady Ashton – caught in mid-clap – exclaimed, “Gosh!” It looked like a Berkshire to me, although I am not a reliable judge of swine.
I’m just kidding, of course; there was no dream. That was just stage-setting. But you’re getting good, and require less and less such trimmings, and I know you spotted right away what made the situation ridiculous enough that it must have been a dream. That’s right! With the exception of Messrs Putin and Schroeder, none of the people mentioned would be happy at the opening of Nord Steam II. The Atlantic Council, in particular, would rather crawl through the garbage chute the day after the annual seafood buffet. In case you are unsure about their rigid and unblinking opposition to the project, you might want to refresh yourself with this: “Nord Stream 2 is a Bad Deal for Europe”.
The authors – a Lithuanian-born American who is also the author of “The New Politics of Natural Gas”, a paean of approval for American shale gas, and a fellow Lithuanian who is an intern at NATO’s Energy Security Section – list four reasons why Nord Stream II must be stopped. Just before we start looking at them, I’d like you to remember the alternative is the status quo ante: continued transit through Ukraine. The amounts will be roughly the same, but one option will see gas transiting through Ukraine as it does now, and one will not. Let’s examine each point in their argument in that context, because if they are arguing that Nord Stream II should not be built – and they are – they should be able to demonstrate how the present option improves upon the possibility. Ready? Let’s get started.
One: it undermines European energy security strategy. Really? How would it do that, in a way the current situation does not? How secure is having 30%-plus of your gas supply shut off? Doesn’t sound like much of a strategy to me. Has that ever happened under the current system? Sure has. It was blamed on Russia, of course, by Ukraine, which was siphoning off large amounts of gas meant for Europe for its own use and profit, confident that Russia would not dare shut the gas off because it was Europe’s supply. Beautiful, no? Ukraine gets free gas, as much as it wants, and the Russians grind their teeth in frustration but can ultimately do nothing. That was when Russia and Ukraine got along more or less all right, although Ukraine has regularly tried to leverage its gas-transit status. The two countries are now bitter enemies, and there is no incentive whatsoever for Ukraine to safeguard Russia’s interests, while there is every incentive to steal from Russia at any opportunity, since it will get a pat on the head from the west for doing it. A track record of pilfering, followed by deteriorating relations and an environment in which hatred of its gas supplier is encouraged: hmmmm…I’m not getting that old it’ll-be-all-right feeling. Continue reading “Imagine My Surprise”