by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 19
January 2022
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If Russia invades Ukraine, Germany must pay the price

Pipeline politics have undermined Europe's strategic advantage over Russia
by Peter Franklin

A pipeline of natural gas from Russia to the West is also, in effect, a pipeline of money from the West to Russia. Neither side can cut off supplies to the other side without cutting itself off. 

It’s a co-dependent relationship that has helped to keep to peace for decades. Pipeline politics has been especially helpful to the countries between Russia and Germany — and, in particular, Poland and Ukraine. 

A briefing from the Bruegel institute includes a map showing how key pipeline routes cross Polish and Ukrainian territory. In the absence of alternative routes, Russia wouldn’t be able to invade either country without running the risk of losing vital energy export infrastructure. This is especially important for Ukraine, which lacks the protection of NATO membership. 

Credit: Bruegel

However, Germany has undermined this strategic protection by cooperating with Russia to build the Nord Stream pipeline, which runs via the Baltic Sea thus bypassing Russia’s immediate neighbours. It was completed in 2011. More recently — and despite Russia’s growing aggression toward Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea — a second pipeline (Nord Stream 2) has been built following the same route. 

Germany has persisted in this policy despite dire warnings from the Poles and Ukrainians. America was also staunchly opposed — or at least it was until the Biden administration threw in the towel (a hallmark of its foreign policy). 

It is therefore now possible for Russia to turn the whole of Ukraine into a war zone while keeping the gas flowing to the EU (and the EU’s money flowing back the other way). By the same token, Russia can more easily cut-off energy supplies to and via Ukraine. 

With Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s borders, the nightmare scenario is coming true. Russia is taking full advantage of the strategic position that Nord Stream — and Germany — has given it. Anger against Berlin is building. Pressed on whether sanctions might be applied against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said “all this will have to be discussed”. That’s too little too late. If there is an invasion then it isn’t just Russia that must held accountable.

The Germans might say that they were simply looking after their own interests. But that’s not good enough. The nations of the free world have benefited from the fact that, in matters of security, they’ve looked after one another’s interests. 

Germany has not made a fair contribution to the West’s collective shield. Even worse, it has used its wealth to recklessly compromise its neighbours’ security. So in return, the German government should be presented with a bill for the full cost of its defence through NATO and the wider Pax Americana. 

Of course, the Germans could refuse to pay. In which case they should have to provide their own security. Or, perhaps, they could ask their Russian friends instead?  

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John Barclay
John Barclay
4 months ago

Time after time we see Germany acting in her own interests, often at the expense of others.
Sometimes it is dressed up in EU terms and opposing what Germany wants is portrayed as “anti European”.
Sometimes, as is obvious with Nordstream 2, it’s just Germany doing a number two on her neighbours to power her legacy industries.
Anything that Germany has a hand in or allows to happen is always for the ultimate benefit of Germany, And that includes the Eurozone bailouts.
How the worlds press continues to give those selfish German politicians a free ride is beyond me.
When Trump told Merkel to pay up for NATO, idiotic liberals were wailing that he was “undermining the western alliance”. Yet nothing has done that more than Germans appalling selfishness.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
4 months ago
Reply to  John Barclay

I’ve always accepted that Germans feel guilty about what the Nazis did in WW2, and that their supremacist culture was truly exceptional behaviour as a result of a seductive and lucky extremist, and a very unfair WW1 settlement.
But I’m wondering if my assessment of the Germans nature is too charitable after seeing, for decades, their brutal economic exploitation and dominance of far poorer EU countries through the Euro and EU regulations, which they seem to think is ok; and now this latest manoeuvre, which would impress Machiavelli himself, of establishing alternative energy infrastructure so that another country can be invaded with no impact on Germany.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
4 months ago

When we joined the EU I worked in a factory. Politicians were talking about bigger markets for us. We knew Germany would close us down.

We lost a lot of business in the world so that we could concentrate on Europe. Our raw materials came around the south of England to Rotterdam, then were transhipped to Felixstowe. Finished goods were sent out from Felixstowe. This extra cost killed us.

Meanwhile Germany encouraged new business to open in Eastern Europe – Slovakia and Slovenia. Close to them but far away for us.

This was a deliberate action.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
4 months ago

Precisely.
Post 1945 Germany should have been ‘broken up’ as proposed by Henry Morgenthau, the year previously.
An opportunity lost indeed.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

Morgenthau also proposed that Germans all become farmers and Germany be forbidden from being an industrial power.
Also good ideas?

Friedrich Tellberg
Friedrich Tellberg
4 months ago

If there was no strong Germany on the continent, the Russian empire would begin right on the eastern shores of the North Sea and would be Britain’s very own security problem.
But fair enough, German interests do not always coincide with those of its European neighbours. Still, Russian resources are run by German capital and German knowhow. So there is a lot Germany can do to put pressure on Russia. And luckily, Putin is no maverick, always testing carefully and extensively where he can put his feet next. I don’t feel much moral sympathy for German-Russian politics, but things could be far worse.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

How can this article not even mention that Angela Merkel, Gemany’s second worst chancellor ever, killed Geman nuclear power after Fukashima, with no reasonable replacement in sight? The reasons for the Fukashima disaster simply did not apply to Germany, yet her knee-jerk reaction significantly weakened Germany and strengthened Russia. Lose-lose!
This moronic decision will strengthen Russia’s hand for decades. Time for the EU to embrace safe and modern nuclear power for many reasons including cleaning energy and climate change, but also to not be so dependent on Russia.

James Stangl
James Stangl
4 months ago

Thank you very little, Mutti Merkel. And Brandon.

doktorboktor
doktorboktor
4 months ago

This article should end with “will this do?”

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
4 months ago

I have made up my mind: Putin is Germany’s problem. Pull our troops out of the way and indicate that we are neutral. Has two world wars taught us nothing? The Ukraine and Belarus have been under Russian control for centuries – when we interfere we are not defending democracy now are we?
Oh, and let’s not forget that Putin can do without German money for longer than Germany can do without Russian gas, so the Germans will roll over.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
4 months ago

A previous article attacking Russian intentions (https://unherd.com/2022/01/why-biden-has-sacrificed-ukraine/) didn’t garner much support, so now we have another one, dressed up as an attack on Germany. Ho, hum…

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

The fact is we don’t know Russia’s intentions, and their actions in the recent past with eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Georgia would suggest countries that border Russia would be right in treating them with caution

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
4 months ago

Isn’t it true that when Germany agreed to the Nordstream 2 project, Russia’s interest in Crimea wasn’t even a blip in anyone’s radar? It’s perhaps true that Germany have been inconsistent in various EU controversies, but I think it’s harsh to accuse them of bad-faith decisions at the expense of their neighbors.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
4 months ago

Pathetic Little Englanders moaning. Why don’t you take your ball and go home.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago

Care to explain your comment?
What do you think is wrong with the article? Do you think Germany depriving their neighbours (and in Poland’s case fellow EU member) of much needed transit funds is ok? What is your opinion of Berlin making itself almost entirely reliant on the goodwill of Moscow for its energy needs? How is any of this Britain’s fault that warrants your “little Englander” comment?
Perhaps Ireland will be happy increasing their contribution to the EU budget to compensate the Poles for their loss of earnings caused by Nord Stream, or providing armed forces to shore up the EUs eastern border if the Russians decide to advance into Ukraine

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m not commenting on the article so much as I am reacting tothe comments,although it is not a very rounded article either.

Everyone acts in their self interest. And no I don’t underestimate the possible negative effect of Nord Stream on Poland and Ukraine. It’s the nationalistic finger pointing that I don’t like. If the shoe were on the other foot and if there was a strategic reason or advantage in taking specific actions, do you not think we would see the same decisions being made?

Thank you for your reasoned questions.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago

Which little Englander comments were you referring to, as I personally can’t find any?
As for your point regarding strategic interest, you think it’s ok to stitch up partners and allies to enrich yourself? If you do that you’ll find you don’t have any allies for long

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Maybe the reference is inaccurate. I was referring to the breaking up of Germany suggestion and to a lesser extent the factory which went under presumably because it was no longer competitive.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
4 months ago

So you indulge in smears instead of reasoned argument – doesn’t that put you on the same level as the ‘little englanders’ that you condemn?
Good challenge Billy Bob.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
4 months ago

Would provide the solution to the problem in not more than six bullet points. Thank you.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I think I have just added a “Little Englander” comment. Obviously I don’t have a problem with being a “Little Englander”.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
4 months ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Thank you Terry. Some people think that description is a smear.