The debate: should Germany ditch the new Russian pipeline?
A 7-minute read
Welcome to our second subscriber newsletter! Today we are disagreeing over whether Germany needs the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Jörg & Axel
Nord Stream 2, a pipeline currently being built under the Baltic Sea from Russia to northern Germany, has turned into the most tense diplomatic standoff between Berlin and Washington since the second Iraq War.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the US are determined to prevent natural gas from every flowing through the 1,230 kilometres of steel tubing. A bipartisan sanctions programme imposed at the end of 2019 managed to scare off private companies just as the project was entering on the home stretch.
But Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas exporter, brought in two of its own ships to finish the job.
Angela Merkel seems determined to see the project through, too. She argues that Germany needs the gas as a “bridging” energy for the years in which renewables still can’t provide for all of Germany’s energy needs.
At the same time most other EU countries oppose the project, while the German government is desperate to improve relations with its transatlantic partner after four miserable years of dealing with Donald Trump.
So what should Germany do?
Axel makes the case that looking for moral purity in energy politics is a phantasy - instead Germany needs to prioritise saving the planet over standing up to Putin. Jörg counters that finishing the pipeline would be too big a risk - instead Germany needs to reverse a disastrous error it made in 2011.
‘Germany shouldn’t cave in to US pressure’
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier's attempt to couple the construction of Nord Stream 2 to German war guilt is as wrong as the belief that trade with Russia will somehow topple the Putin regime is naïve. Germany is no longer peddling the fable that Volkswagen’s China exports are a democracy project, so why should it be true for Russia?
But Germany, where all political parties bar the Greens, are in favour of finishing the pipeline, need not hide behind moral arguments for wanting to get the pipeline finished.
The case for importing Russian gas is an economic one and when Angela Merkel claims that criticism of the Russian regime and Nord Stream 2 have to be separated, she’s not a hypocrite, she is right.
Let’s face it, energy is a dirty business. Unlike Norway and Sweden, which are blessed with a natural supply of hydropower on which they can base their clean, cheap and autonomous energy supply, countries like Germany need to compromise.