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Grigory Pasko: Traveling the Nord Stream, Part IV

The Construction Project of the Century: What the NEGP gas pipeline might bump up against By Grigory Pasko, journalist …It might bump up against politics and politicians. Then construction will either stop or, more likely, it will continue, but with significant correctives. For example, Russia and Germany may have to abandon the idea of laying the gas pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea.

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Photo of pipeline construction – so far, on schedule – by Grigory Pasko

Who doesn’t like the routing of the NEGP? It is known that the countries of the Baltic, Poland and Ukraine have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the project long ago: the pipeline will bypass their territories, and that means the question of transit automatically falls by the wayside. Critics of the pipeline assert that it would make much more sense to build yet another land-based pipeline through Belarus and Poland or to increase the throughput of the already existing system in the Ukraine. A weak point of the project remains its environmental component. Speaking about the environmental aspects and risks of the pipeline, former Estonian president Arnold Rüütel mentioned the live ammunition and mines of the times of the war still resting at the bottom of the sea. Former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski likewise called the project to create a gas pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea “bad from the point of view of ecology”. In addition to this, in his opinion, such a project is weak from the economic and political points of view. “We fear that the Baltic gas pipeline will become a mine laid under solidarity in the European Union”, declared president Kwaśniewski, expressing in so doing regret that the agreement between Russia and Germany was prepared “over our heads”. The Baltic countries supported Poland in its dissatisfaction with the NEGP project. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia disseminated a declaration by the head of its agency, Artis Pabriks. “All countries of the EU should be involved in such large-scale energy projects, but in fact this project is profoundly Russo-German”, considered the Latvian diplomat. Prime-minister of this country Kalvītis called the decision of Russia and Germany “ill-considered” and capable of “creating a threat to the region”, as well as declaring that such a project should not be implemented. In Lithuania, which works more closely with Moscow in the fuel-and-energy sphere, they were more careful in their utterances. “The agreement between Russia and Germany about laying a gas pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea reduces the energy security of Lithuania”, considered former economics minister Kęstutis Daukšys. In other words, the countries of the Baltic have tried to do much to increase the cost of the project even more, having proposed to «Gazprom» that it neutralize the chemical weapons resting on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Certain analysts assert that Angela Merkel (chairwoman of the CDU), who replaced Schroeder at the post of chancellor, will not become an opponent of the pipeline at the very least because key posts on the German cabinet of ministers belong to the social-democrats. On top of that, it is precisely the large companies that appear as the main sponsors of the CDU in Germany, and they are greatly interested in the laying of the NEGP. It is noteworthy that the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka, has appeared as a fierce critic of the NEGP. He considers construction of the pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea inexpedient. “This is the stupidest project in the history of Russia, which can enter into the Guinness Book of World Records. What will be with it is – unknown, after all, the pipe will pass along a pile of munitions on the bed of the Baltic Sea”, declared he. At the same time, Lukashenko noticed that the second phase of the “Yamal-Europe” pipeline is already nearly ready. “They already laid the foundation under the second phase, then they dropped it and went there (to the Baltic)”, said he.

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Photo of presidents Lukashenka of Belarus and Putin of Russia courtesy of rossia.ru

Against the background of all this multitude of voices, Russia will no doubt attempt to force the construction of the pipeline – (specialists in Babayevo told me about the contraction of the timetables for construction at certain sectors), along the way serving up examples confirming the necessity of diversifying routes. For now, this is being manifested most clearly in relation to Ukraine; however, in the future Moscow could start a tougher dialogue with Warsaw. For now, this toughness has manifested itself with respect to Polish mat, which for a second year now is not being shipped to Russia because of the supposedly poor quality of its expert evaluation.