Nord Stream is a Geopolitical Disaster for the EU

Yesterday, this letter to the editor from the Polish Defense Minister and two academics was published by the FT:

From Mr Radek Sikorski, Mr Maciej Olex-Szczytowski and Mr Jacek Rostowski. Sir, European Union solidarity was excellently, if belatedly, demonstrated to President Vladimir Putin by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, at the recent EU-Russia summit at Samara in central Russia. Thoughts of renewing a comprehensive EU-Russia partnership agreement must be quelled until Russia stops its egregious harassment of its EU neighbours. True to historic form, when confronted the Russian leader is contemplating tactical withdrawals. Already he has publicly told his henchmen to “solve” the “problem” of Polish meat sales (translation: “Find me an excuse quick to lift the groundless embargo which I myself have mandated”). Let us hope Russia will also cease its electronic attacks on Estonia, its oil blockade of Lithuania and so on. But Russia’s divisive strategy still seems in place, so expect new tests for EU solidarity even if such “problems” are “solved”. With their new, clear view of Mr Putin, now is the time for the German chancellor and the European Commission to bin the Nordstream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany under the Baltic, planned by Gazprom, the state-controlled Russian gas monopoly, as controlling partner and BASF and Eon as minority players. The most outrageous attempt by Mr Putin to divide and damage the EU, it would be an economic and geopolitical disaster for the Union. The pipeline was initiated by Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor Merkel’s predecessor, with no consultation with Germany’s EU partners. Economically, Nordstream is absurd. Its cost (estimates up to €12bn are quoted, but there is no official figure) would be three to five times that of doubling up existing land links. Financing it should be tough as the European Investment Bank has balked and German taxpayer guarantees for Russia are questioned by the Commission. But in any event, the bill would be met via the tariff by German and other EU producers and consumers. They would be paying for increased market dominance over themselves by Russia-Gazprom and its allies, in raging contradiction to European policy on liberalisation. Ineluctably, there would be higher energy costs and lower German and EU competitiveness. And fossil fuel usage would be entrenched, to the detriment of cheaper and cleaner nuclear power. Geopolitically, Nordstream secures for Russia not just increased EU subservience in energy. Russia gains the ability to decouple old and new members by differentially turning off the tap, as done to Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine and more recently to Estonia and Lithuania. For this principal reason Poland, Estonia and Lithuania are vehemently opposed (Sweden has reservations on ecological grounds). Post Samara the Russians have announced a new “bypass” pipeline to the Baltic, this time for oil, which may make existing westward links needlessly redundant (“Pipeline set to tighten Russian grip on energy”, May 22). If indeed Mr Putin hopes that in energy matters he can still divide and rule, the best way to show him his error is to scrap Nordstream and enact explicit energy solidarity within the EU. Radek Sikorski, Minister of National Defence, Poland, 2005-7 Maciej Olex-Szczytowski, Warsaw 01-557, Poland Jacek Rostowski, Professor of Economics, Central European University, 1051 Budapest, Hungary