Nordstream 2, Germany and the US
I’m increasingly getting the feeling that the current security crisis in Ukraine is being fuelled by this issue.
Ultimately, the final decision was in Germany’s hands and the agreement between Merkel and Biden was an acknowledgment of that fact. But the dynamics seem to have changed after the German election and this is reflected in the mood music coming from Germany. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Ukrainian security crisis was significantly cranked up after that election.
The Merkel-Biden agreement attempted to balance Germany’s assertion of her energy interests with the American geopolitical strategy of “protecting” Europe from Russia. But it was an agreement signed with a German government that was about to receive the last rites in the forthcoming election – something that was already being predicted in July.
It’s surely not possible that the US, with all its sophisticated intelligence-gathering machinery, was not aware of the fact that the German government was a “dead man walking” at the time it signed the agreement? And it’s surely not possible that it didn’t have some general idea of the political position of the likely government that would replace its co-signatory within a matter of months? In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if the US was not already in consultation, through unofficial channels, with the likely parties involved even before the German election.
Then, magically, and in record time after they were elected, the parties to the new German coalition manage to agree the make-up of their new government just before the scheduled Nord 2 sign-off. The new government then used an excuse for refusing it that somehow nobody noticed earlier.
The economic case for Nord 2 is unanswerable and the new German government knows that as well as anyone, but this is, and has never been, purely about economics. The US ensured that was the case when it threatened sanctions if Nord 2 went ahead. It was the strength of the economic case for Nord 2 that forced the US into such an extreme threat against its allies. But because that threat had the potential to alienate its allies it needed to find a way to appear to walk back from it if the opportunity arose.
Such is the economic power of the US that it was never likely that it would have to make good on its threat to its European allies – after all they are allies not on the basis of any sense of economic equality. It was always going to be enough that the threat was made. Then, having introduced reality into their relationship through the issuing of the threat the pretence of the nature of the relationship between the US and its allies had to be reconstructed through the dead letter Biden-Merkel agreement.
The US, in signing that agreement, was undoubtedly aware of the limited political shelf-life of its co-signatory. It was also aware of the likely susceptibility of her successors to taking a different position on Nord 2. But of course the US could never know for sure.
It was still possible that Nord 2 would arrive in the aftermath of the new German government. After all, even if its instincts were to prevent it, the decision to stop it would depend on whether the new government could withstand the pressure of increased energy costs and the resultant consumer/electorate backlash.
To prevent such an outcome the US could rely on its capacity to create a crisis with the help of its Ukrainian creature. Between them and with the help of the U.K. they have been attempting to amplify the crisis with Russia in order to elevate the level of anti-Russian sentiment among the European electorates to an extent that nullifies the inevitable consumer backlash from any abandonment of Nord 2.
Of course in all of this the US can also rely on the capacity of the Green Party in the German coalition to sustain its zealous anti-climate-change agenda which views Nord 2 as a disaster for the planet.
For documents that throw light on the Ukraine situation, see here
For an in-depth analysis of the situation, see article by Pat Walsh here