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memri
May 24, 2018 No.
7487

Russian-German Relations As Seen From Poland – Polish Newspaper 'Rzeczpospolita': When Trump Goes Away, We Will Be Left Facing Increasingly Pro-Russian Germans

The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita published an article, titled "Trump Will Go Away, Pro-Russia Germans Will Not," by Polish editorialist Jerzy Haszczyński. In the article, Haszczyński argues that the squabble between Berlin and Washington over Iran, and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is rupturing Western unity. The Polish editorialist stresses that this division is bringing Germany to embrace Ostpolitik, and he opines that once U.S. President Donald Trump ends his term of office, Poland will be left alone facing a neighboring Germany that has increasingly become pro-Russian.

In the article, Haszczyński focuses on the Nord Stream 2 project that he perceives as a threat, since Russia may further strengthen its position as a gas monopoly in Europe as a result. His words seem to echo Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's article for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The article, published on May 18, the very same day that German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, emphasized that Nord Stream 2 is a tragic mistake.

Poroshenko wrote: "This is an absolutely geopolitical project of the Kremlin, which has nothing to do with economic and business interests, and is aimed, first and foremost, at the destruction of the unity of Europe and, subsequently, its subordination. This has always been the ideology behind Russian energy policy. Today there are no grounds to think differently, until Russian aggression against Ukraine and the West is not actually stopped, and the Kremlin begins to respect international law and order… Thus, investment in Nord Stream 2 is investment in the disintegration of Europe. Does Europe really need another such gas pipeline with Russia?"[1]

Merkel herself at a meeting with Poroshenko in Berlin on 10 April specifically acknowledged Ukraine's concerns on the "political" and "strategic" aspects of the Nord Stream 2. "It cannot be the case that Nord Stream 2 means Ukraine no longer has any significance with regard to the transit of natural gas… It has strategic importance for Ukraine… In our view, the Nord Stream 2 project is not possible without clarity of how Ukraine's transit role will continue. From this you can already see that this is not just an economic project, but that, of course, political factors must also be taken into account."[2]

During the Putin-Merkel meeting, the Russian president specified that energy is a priority area in terms of the partnership between Moscow and Berlin. Putin then added that Russia does not intend to stop gas transit though Ukraine once Nord Stream 2 and that gas shipments via Ukraine will continue as long as they are economically justified.[3]

For her part, Merkel stated that Germany considers the Nord Stream 2 as an "economic and commercial project," which has other "angles" as well, and specified that Ukraine's role as a transit country should continue.[4] It should be noted that Berlin supported Gazprom to build Nord Stream 2. The construction of the German part of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline began in Germany on May 3, 2018. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline works should be completed in 2019.[5]

Meanwhile, the Trump administration opposes the pipeline project. Ahead of Merkel's visit to Sochi, Sandra Oudkirk, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy diplomacy, threatened new sanctions. "We are exerting as much persuasive power as we possibly can… Any pipeline project -- and there are many multiple pipeline projects in the world that are potentially covered by this sanctions authority -- is in an elevated position of sanctions risk… We would be delighted if the project did not take place."[6]

Commenting on Oudkirk's remarks, German Energy Minister Peter Altmaier said: "The US is looking for markets, we understand this, and we are ready to make it easier for U.S. gas to reach Germany, but as for now, it remains more expensive than the gas supplied through the pipeline."[7]

Below are excerpts of Haszczyński's article:[8]


Jerzy Haszczyński (Source: Rp.pl)


Vladimir Putin met with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi.
(Source: Kremlin.ru, May 18, 2018)


Route map of Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2. The 1.200 km Nord Stream 2 pipeline would run alongside the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. (Source: Gazprom.com)

The Squabble Between Berlin And Washington Is Rupturing Western Unity

"How much American and Middle European venom must one have, how much Russophobia must one harbor, to have anything against Nord Stream 2?

"After all, this is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe and concerns companies from Russia, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, France and Great Britain that provides jobs to thousands of people. The lead company among them is [Russian energy giant] Gazprom, which supports football clubs, sponsors culture and even rebuilds Orthodox churches. The project [Nord Stream 2] is a model ecologically and it will come to pass in harmony with the Baltic Sea.

"This is a version of a poster which might be hanging over the bed of Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor and now the most devoted propagandist for Nord Stream 2. Other German politicians who hold senior positions were distributing leaflets with a simple message: this is not our (political) issue, this is [purely] a business issue.

"Already a month ago Angela Merkel said: this is, after all, a political project. And she decided to reach a political agreement on it – with U.S. and Russia. The Russians would presumably promise that part of the Russian gas would reach the West through Ukraine and in return Americans would stop threatening sanctions on businesses (including German ones) taking part in the project.

"Ahead of the Merkel-Putin summit, Sandra Oudkirk, hitherto familiar to [merely] a narrow circle announced that [The U.S.] will not stop, because you can’t trust Russian promises. The words of a senior State Department official have morphed into a statement that threatened the project.

"We can only root for America. Not because Trump is in power there. But because – and Trump’s rule revealed it – the Germans quickly became disappointed in U.S. and they want to return to doing big business with Russia, no matter how aggressive its politics in which they also use gas pipelines [as a political weapon].

"Chancellor Merkel doesn’t want this but a major part of society and a majority of parties in the parliament, including the ruling SPD and CSU do want this. It reached the situation where the editors of the most important daily on the left, Der Spiegel, demanded recognition of Russia’s areas of influence in the former USRR.

"A squabble between Berlin and Washington, about inter alia Nord Stream 2, breaks the unity of the West. But Trump will go away and we will be left with more and more openly pro-Russia Germans."

 

[1] Interfax.com.ua, May 21, 2018.

[2] Euobserver.com, April 11, 2018.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7479, Russia This Week – May 21, 2018 – Part I, May 21, 2018.

[4] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7479, Russia This Week – May 21, 2018 – Part I, May 21, 2018.

[5] Dw.com, May 3, 2018.

[6] Rferl.org, May 17, 2018.

[7] Sputniknews.com, May 18, 2018. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7037, Russia-Government Funded Think Tank: The Hidden Target Of The New Round Of U.S. Sanctions Is To Undermine The German Economy, August 3, 2017.

[8] Rp.pl, May 18, 2018.