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Grigory Pasko: Looking a gift horse in the mouth, Part 6

[See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of this series.] Nord Stream, Scandinavian Style or The Cold War, Continued Part 6 By Grigory Pasko, journalist Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. lodka052908 The Baltic Sea (photo by Grigory Pasko) Here’s a list of questions that I never did get answers to during my trip to the Scandinavian countries. – will Nord Stream actually be able to provide the Swedes and the Finns (and that means all of Europe) with a land-based alternative of the pipeline?

– by how much more can the cost of the project realistically increase?(Representatives of the company have pronounced figures from 7.5 to 8 bln euros. Specialists assert that the whole thing will end up costing 15 bln euros)- what is the real cost of laying one kilometer of pipe under the water today?- what is the tariff for transporting one cubic meter of gas through the pipeline?- which of the western banks is financing the project?- is it really possible, without detriment to safe operation and out of technical circumstances, to get by without a service platform?- where precisely (the coordinates) will gas storage facilities be sited along the entire route of the pipeline?- what overall damage to flora and fauna, fisheries will be caused based on the results of the laying of the pipeline and its operation?- by whom and how will the pipe be removed from under the water after the end of the period of its operation (50 years)?- how will they compensate damages to fishermen for torn trawling nets and how will fishermen compensate damages in the event of damage to the pipe?These are, so to speak, but the first ten such questions to which I did not find answers anywhere. (I’ll send this article to Zug, to the headquarters of Nord Stream, and will ask them to send me the answers).And now let’s have a talk with a historian of the Baltic Sea region, a young Swedish scholar named Per Högselius. Per knows Russian well, so we got to the point right at the very beginning: the question of gas.I know that the latest subject of your research is natural gas in Europe. Why is it that this specific topic interested you?The irony of history is that both German Greifswald [where the Nord Stream pipeline will make landfall—Trans.] and Russian Vyborg [where the pipeline will begin its undersea journey—Trans.] were in their time Swedish cities. And the Baltic was a Swedish sea. Today, Russia, Sweden, and Germany are united by this Sea.But if for the Swedes, Finns, and Balts, the Baltic is a central part of their country, nature, and culture; for Russia the Baltic is on the periphery. This is an important distinction between our countries.Can Western Europe get by without Russian gas?I would say this is a political question but also an economic one. Western Europe can get by without Russian gas, but at what price?The second phase of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline will be 6 times less expensive than the Nord Stream project…Yes, because Nord Stream is a submarine pipeline. But there is also a political logic, there is an environmental logic, and there is an economic logic. These are different logics, if I can say it that way, and it is impossible to say that one or the other of them is the most important.It looks like it’s purely the political logic that’s predominating here…There is practically no natural gas [being used] in Sweden. And this means that for us this project is not very important, it’s something “alien”. It’s a rather strange situation for us, really: we think that the Baltic is “our” sea, but the pipeline – it isn’t ours, of course.From the point of view of international law, if Sweden is against the project, this still doesn’t change anything.I’m not a legal expert. Of course, there are groups in Sweden that would like to buy Russian gas. But our power generating system here uses almost no fossil fuels. We have many hydroelectric power stations, and atomic power stations, and that’s it. There aren’t any [that burn] gas or coal. But there are groups that are interested in natural gas…And what is the position of Sweden in relation to the pipeline as of today?Sweden has a long history of neutrality. This is very important for us. The last 20 years have been quite difficult – trying to keep very close ties with the Baltic states, and to maintain relations with Russia, towards which we have a great deal of respect. …Our political tradition in Sweden is very much based on a culture of compromise and consensus.perhogselius052908Swedish historian Per Högselius (photo by Grigory Pasko)But politicians aren’t experts at anything. That’s why they turn to people like you for advice. What would you advise them about the Nord Stream question?I don’t know… As a historian, I’m not used to giving political advice! But I can see that this is something where we’d like to reach a kind of good atmosphere on energy in general with Russia and the Baltics. But I would say that the Baltic countries, and also Germany and Russia, don’t have this consensus-oriented way of thinking about such projects.Why do they need consensus, when they’ve already said “We’re going to build it, and we don’t care what you think”? Nord Stream have already even placed the order for a billion euros’ worth of underwater pipes!As a historian, I can tell you that there actually are examples in history where there was such a situation, but the project was not implemented, such as the Yamal project. If you look at a map, you’ll see that the Yamal pipeline was built – but only to the Polish border and no further. Because there were strikes in Gdansk and so forth… We here in Sweden think that we can influence [the outcome of] this story – whether it will take place or not.The Baltic Sea is very sensitive from the historical point of view, but also from the environmental. You probably know already that the Sea is too salty for many varieties of fish, but insufficiently salty for very many other varieties. It’s a very vulnerable ecosystem. I think the fishermen are hoping to get some kind of compensation [from Nord Stream]. And not only the fishermen, but regions as well: on the island of Gotland, they are hoping that they’ll get lots of money. And of course this has been a topic of discussion in Sweden. This is – how do you say “corruption” in Russian?Korruptsiya. A very Russian word indeed! So Russian that you couldn’t even imagine the sizes of this Russian corruption in your wildest dreams. Here’s a purely historical question: The precise coordinates of several burial sites of chemical weapons in the Baltic Sea are known.. .Have you or other Swedish historians studied this question?Military historians are doing this, for example Robert Larsson [I had made arrangements to meet with Robert Larsson, but he was forced to decline at the last moment, since he has recently become an employee of the Ministry of Defense and can now no longer meet with journalists at his own initiative—G.P.].It’s all quite complicated. The entire history of the Baltic Sea, it’s all there under the water – a lot of boats, old bombs, mines, and also from more recent times electrical and communications cables… It’s a whole world of history down there on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.Basically, nobody [in Sweden] wants the pipeline. And I think the Swedish strategy – the unofficial strategy – is probably to make it too expensive by putting a lot of obligations on the project. But what’s interesting from my point of view is that it’s not entirely clear if we’re talking about environmental or political aspects here…Yes, politics and the environment are strongly intertwined… Nord Stream has said that it will carry out all environmental demands. Conduct research on fish, on bird migration… This is work for several years and for tens of millions of euros. How would you sum up the Nord Stream project from a larger historical perspective?I think there are some interesting historical ironies in this topic. For example, during the Cold War, there was an almost harmonious cooperation between West and East concerning natural gas. Back in the 1970s, there was even interest from Sweden in buying Soviet gas – probably via Finland. There was a Swedish group in Moscow, they talked with Brezhnev……But now, when the Cold War is over, there are all kinds of problems, people don’t know whom to trust. You would think that it should be the other way around. This project [Nord Stream] was first conceived of during the Cold War. I’m coming to the conclusion that perhaps it won’t be built today precisely because there is no Cold War any more!