[Long time readers may recall several long series of investigative reports from our correspondent Grigory Pasko about the controversial Nord Stream gas pipeline project over the past two years. As we have *reported earlier*, Grigory has also shot a documentary film on the subject, entitled “Buried At Sea”. Last week, he was invited to Stockholm to show his film to parliamentarians, environmentalists, and the local press. Grigory’s visit to Stockholm happened to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious Nord Stream propaganda bus that’s been making the rounds of strategic European cities in recent weeks. Unable to resist the opportinity, Grigory paid the bus a visit and even met with the former Swedish bank president Nord Stream has hired as its high-profile lobbyist in that country. – Editor]
The Nord Stream Propaganda Truck
Grigory Pasko, journalist
A promotional automobile of the firm «Mercedes-Benz» has situated itself on the main square of Stockholm, not far from the Grand Hotel and the royal palace, right next to the parliament building. On the body of the auto is drawn a map of the Nord Stream gas pipeline and a map of the location of the Baltic countries. This tractor-trailer of the company Nord Stream arrived in Stockholm from Finland. Prior to that, it roamed the lands of Germany and of Europe in general. Everywhere the tractor-trailer has stopped, employees of the company and hired volunteers were convincing the inhabitants that they and their project are good, that everything they say can and should be believed.
I asked a volunteer lad to tell me, an inhabitant, about the NordStream project. «Oh!-, exclaimed the lad, – this is the biggest projectin Europe!» «And what is its cost» , – I asked. The volunteer didn’tanswer. «And what is the sum of the harm to nature from this wholeproject?»-I asked once again. The volunteer once again did not answer.Seeing that the volunteer was having some difficulties, a moreexperienced representative of the company advised me to ask questionsof the representative of Nord Stream in Sweden, Mr. Lars Grönstedt (hisofficial title is “senior advisor”) -former head of the largest Swedishbank, Svenska Handelsbanken.
We climbed into the driver’s cab and had ourselves a nice, pleasantchat. Personally, the answers of the former banker differed little incontent from the answers of the volunteer. On what specifically havethe 100 mln euros (which, as follows from the promotional booklets ofthe company, went for the preparation of an environmental report on theproject) been spent? How much did the engineering company Rambollreceive for the preparation of this report? Did expenditures forsponsorship support of the municipality of Visby, the University ofGotland, an archaeological underwater expedition, and work in the portof Slite enter into this sum? Mr. Grönstedt did not give answers tothese and other questions.
The project for a pipe along the bottom of the Baltic sea – and thisis obvious – has found itself in a not-simple situation. All threecomponents of this project – the political, the economic, and theenvironmental – have turned out to be not without their faults. In thepolitical sphere, the project has produced a schism among the countriesof Europe, while Russia has acquired political adversaries for a longtime to come in Poland, Latvia, and Estonia. In the economic sphere,even Nord Stream’s own number crunchers appear to have gotten somewhatconfused: at different times they had announced a different cost of thewhole project – from 5 to 9 bln euros. Meanwhile, independent expertsinsist that the construction project of the century might not even beable to come in under the 12 bln mark. The environmental component isnow being discussed. Formally, the Nord Stream company has presented areport in accordance with the Espoo Convention. However, thealternative variants [required to be discussed in this report–Trans.]include only marine variants of one project – the laying of pipes alongthe bottom of the Baltic, completely excluding land-based routes.Environmentalists assert: the Baltic is so exhausted and overburdenedwith technogenic projects already that yet another pipeline may lead togrievous consequences.
Representatives of the company – and, following in their footsteps(or is it the other way around?), Russian premier Putin – keepinsisting: there are no environmental risks in this project. Okay,let’s say they’re right. Then why is the environmental report in placesso vague? For example, in the part concerning the Russian stretch ofthe project – the branch from Gryazovets to Vyborg? Why is the companydodging the issue, asserting that this branch – is part of the unifiedgas system of Russia, in essence Gazprom’s baby, and has nothing to dowith Nord stream? When in fact it has everything to do with NordStream, because this trunk gas pipeline was conceived with one and onlyone objective in mind – to supply gas into the Nord Stream pipe. Therealso were conditions: gas was supposed to have also been provided fromthis trunk pipeline to the inhabitants of the Vologda region, forexample Babayevo Rayon, through which already three such gas pipelinesare laid. And yet this Rayon, 40% of which was provided with gas 30years ago, still remains at exactly the same level. Even though, in thewords of head of the administration of Babayevo Rayon Oleg Tishin, theGazpromovites had promised to give the people gas.
They didn’t. And most likely they won’t. Because the top managers ofGazprom regard this gas as their own. Wingas head Rainer Seeleaccidentally let the cat out of the bag in an interview with«Kommersant» when he said that his friend Medvedev (the one who’s stillat Gazprom, not the one who has already moved out of there with apromotion) had asked: «Why are you selling my gas so cheaply?» A joke?Perhaps. In every joke, as is known, there is only a portion that is ajoke…
Their gas. Their oil. Ores and plants. Their country. And all the problems? Yours and mine.
Nord Stream is handing out thesecollectible souvenir sugar packs on its bus (photos by Grigory Pasko)
Energy for you- that’s the inscription on the packs of sugar beinghanded out on the bus – apparently in order to sweeten the bitter tasteof the project. The project, it can be seen, is not without itsdrawbacks, about which environmentalists in various countries of Europenever tire of speaking. But the more free sugar, the quieter theobjections. Greenpeace is actively not speaking about theenvirocomponent of the project. Certain environmentalists have told methat in the given situation, they are forced to choose between bad andworse. By the latter they have in mind the transporting of liquefiedgas in unreliable LNG tankers: for the ecology of the sea, this couldbecome an even more dangerous variant.
In Russia, it seems, many people simply couldn’t care less aboutthis Nord stream. Like everything else in general that goes on aroundthe oil-and-gas complex: this isn’t ours, after all, it’s Putin’s andhis buddies’. If you go poking around – in the best case they’ll lockyou up in jail, in the worst – they’ll kill you.
Russian protests don’t frighten Nord Stream – Gazprom’s grabbedeverything worth grabbing there anyway. But these «foolish andtrustworthy» Scandinavians have to be appeased, they’ve got to be fedall those fairy tales about the 100 mln supposedly spent on ecologicalsurveys.
…That’s Swedish divers that that company’s giving money to. But to theRussians, [Nord Stream’s Permitting Director Dirk] von Ameln recentlysaid that he wouldn’t even let them come close to the regions of theactivity of the project (read: the entire Baltic). Ameln declared theseregions secret. The Scandinavians, it seems, simply wiped the spit fromtheir faces. Before this, they were being crammed full of horrorstories about listening devices on the pipes and about Russiansubmarines, distracting attention away from the serious environmentalproblems of the project and asserting: see now, what kind of idiotsthese opponents of the project are!
We will be idiots, if we blindly place all our trust in nordstream.
I assert: you can not believe anybody at his word – not Wingas, norE-On, nor all the more so Gazprom. Construction should not begin untilyou get all the answers to all the questions.
By the way, about those submarines. It’s only now that Nord stream andGazprom are saying that there aren’t any and there won’t be any. Butwhen the time comes, they will say military-marine formations areneeded to protect the interests of the economic security of the projectand deliveries of gas to our own dear mother-Europe. And also to fightthose terrorists…
It just recently became known that Russia intends tocreate a separate grouping of troops in the Arctic, which will becalled upon to provide for the security of the Russian part of theArctic Ocean “in various conditions of the military-politicalsituation”. Besides this, according to the arctic strategy prepared bythe Security Council of the RF, this region must, in essence, beswitched over to the control of the FSB, and already by the year 2016,it will turn into “the leading strategic resource base of the RF”. Thesame kind of grouping – that’s what I think – will soon appear in theBaltic as well. And also under the control of the FSB.
Before June-August of the year 2009, the company “Nord Stream” must getpermission from three of the states in the territorial waters orexclusive economic zone of which the gas pipeline will pass. This is -Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.(There is no need to doubt that Russia andGermany are going to give such permission). Of these three, perhaps themost inconvenient partner for Nord Stream is – Sweden. That’s exactlywhy the company is trying so hard – the buses, the high-poweredlobbyists, and so forth.