Eastern Europeans Argue Against Nord Stream

Former Russian client states argue that extending the Baltic Sea pipeline would hurt Ukraine.

Ten European countries have called for a summit to discuss a planned extension of the Nord Stream pipeline that transmits Russian natural gas to Germany, bypassing former Soviet client states in Eastern Europe.

Reuters reports that Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have written to the European Commission to point out that the planned extension, called Nord Stream 2, would bypass Ukraine, currently the main conduit for Russian gas supplies to Europe.

“Preserving the transport route through Ukraine is the strategic interest of the EU as a whole,” the countries argue, “not only from an energy security perspective, but also reinforcing the stability of the Eastern European region.”

The commission, which is spearheading efforts to diversify Europe’s energy supply away from Russia, said it will scrutinize Nord Stream 2.

“Ukraine is a safe transit route. Gas should continue to flow through Ukraine,” European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said on Thursday.

Unnecessary extension

As the Atlantic Sentinel has reported, Western countries’ support for extending Nord Stream belies their commitment to making Europe less vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

This summer, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV and Germany’s E.ON signed a memorandum with Russia’s Gazprom that would see them double the transit capacity of Nord Stream within the next five years.

The European Union as a whole gets roughly a third of its natural gas from Russia. Gazprom is often an instrument of Moscow’s foreign policy.

The Nord Stream extension is economically unnecessary. The current pipeline, which runs from the Gulf of Finland to Germany under the Baltic Sea, uses only half its capacity of 55 billion cubic meters.

Russia is believed to use just 60 percent of its present pipeline capacity altogether. Yet in addition to Nord Stream 2, it seeks to build a new pipeline under the Black Sea as well. Both would bypass its former satellite state Ukraine which currently transits around half the natural gas Russia sells to Europe.

Pressuring Ukraine

Russia has turned off gas supplies to Ukraine four times in recent years, most recently this week, to try to dissuade it from deepening relations with the rest of Europe.

Ukraine — which gained its independence from Russia in 1991 — nevertheless signed an association agreement with the EU this year that would see it harmonize its economic and social policies with those of the 28-nation bloc.

European regulators have also made Gazprom’s life harder. They have forced the company to allow third-party access to electricity and gas distribution networks in Europe and in April launched an antitrust probe into its practices.