Russia announces plans to bypass Ukraine in gas trade, reigniting Nord Stream 2 controversy
Russian energy minister Alexander Novak’s announcement that Ukraine may no longer serve as a transit country for gas exports to Western Europe has irritated German policymakers, Matthias Brüggmann reports for Handelsblatt. Novak told Russian media gas transports through the Ukraine would be the most costly option for Russia, and are therefore unlikely to continue. “If Mr. Novak’s statement really represents the final position [of Russia], this would be an immense breach of trust with respect to Germany and cast a lot of doubt on Russian assurances regarding Nord Stream 2,” Johann Wadepuhl, deputy parliamentary group speaker of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance, told Handelsblatt. Green politician Rebecca Harms said the decision to bypass Ukraine was not a surprise but had come sooner than expected. “I hope Russia’s position is now clear to everyone and that this German-Russian pipeline project and Europe’s energy policy interests will be discussed afresh,” Harms, who is a member of the EU Parliament, told the newspaper.
To allay concerns that the pipeline in the Baltic Sea would be used bypass other European countries in gas trade, Merkel has repeatedly called on Russia to guarantee that Ukraine would not be left out, a demand Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he understands but that could only be satisfied if economically viable. The pipeline project is heavily opposed by many of Germany's European neighbours, who fear it will increase the continent's reliance on Russian energy imports and undermine economic sanctions on the Russian government.