Nord Stream-2 Is a Threat to Europe’s Security and Ukraine's Independence
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pressuring Ukraine and the West on multiple fronts. He has set conditions to conduct military operations against Ukraine on a large scale. He is exploiting Russia’s leverage on Europe’s energy supplies and enabling Belarusian escalation against Poland, a NATO country. These efforts are parts of a deliberate campaign supporting specific demands Putin is making of the West, including permanently abjuring further enlargement of NATO and military support to Ukraine. Nord Stream 2 is a threat to Europe's security and to Ukraine's independence. This pipeline will change the geopolitical landscape in Europe for years to come. Therefore, the fight should be renewed to prevent Nord Stream 2 from starting operations, analysts at Understandingwar emphasize.
The Nord Stream -2 is unlikely to enhance the security of energy supply to Europe. Existing gas pipelines provide sufficient capacity for Russia to supply natural gas to Europe. Germany's dismissal of NS-2 risks is based in part on the Kremlin's line that business is business, not part of Putin's machinations. But NS-2 has never been simply about business for the Kremlin. Rather, NS -2 will allow the Kremlin to bypass Ukraine, potentially completely eliminating gas transit through Ukraine and depriving Europe of its main route.
The Kremlin continues to use energy as a weapon, and NS-2 will be no exception.
The Kremlin's information operations have promoted the false narrative that “Russia’s business is just business” so much so that the Kremlin regularly uses energy policy to put pressure on other countries. Putin's attempt to limit Moldova's EU integration is a recent example, one of many.
NS-2 is more than an instrument of economic and political pressure; the pipeline will be another pillar of the Kremlin's asymmetric power projection.
The Kremlin’s asymmetric approach is based in part on its ability to amplify niche capabilities, such as energy sales, via information operations, human networks, and coalitions.
With Russian pipelines come Russian influence networks. The Kremlin has already established a network of people who are economically dependent on NS2 and therefore have a vested interest in the pipeline’s success, which likely has empowered NS2’s progress. With the launch of the pipeline, the Kremlin will be able to further expand the network of German companies and individuals who will be involved and dependent on it.
With Russian influence networks come information networks and operations. The Kremlin uses its influence networks to spread Kremlin-friendly narratives. The Kremlin will be able to expand an information ecosystem around NS2 and enhance Russia’s ability to shape perceptions in Europe for years to come. Russian NS2-dependent human and information networks will be hard to weed out once they solidify.
NS2 is also a potential intelligence tool. The Kremlin might place surveillance capabilities along the pipeline.
NS-2 poses a major risk to Ukraine.
NS-2 bypasses Ukraine, and its risks to Ukraine have been well discussed.
First, Russia is likely setting up Ukraine for an energy crisis this winter. Gazprom reduced gas transit through Ukraine several times this year.
In October, Russia temporarily halted coal supplies to Ukraine. Gazprom signed a deal with Hungary that will further limit Russia’s gas transit through Ukraine. High gas prices are already a source of societal and political tensions in Ukraine. The Kremlin might use this multi-faceted energy pressure, which will be amplified by the launch of NS2, to sow instability in Ukraine.
Second, the NS2 launch will increase the probability of additional Russian military action against Ukraine. Reducing Russia’s dependency on Ukraine for its gas transit reduces Ukraine’s checks on the Kremlin. Putin prioritizes the NS2 pipeline, approval of which would be put at risk by an overt Russian military offensive into Ukraine. That risk largely disappears once the pipeline is certified.
The United States should reject “inevitability” when it comes to Russia.
The United States could have worked more closely with US partners in Europe. NS2 should not have become a point of contention between the United States and Germany or a de facto bilateral US-Germany issue.
The United States giving in on NS2 to strengthen ties with Germany is ineffective and counterproductive as it weakens commitments and trust within the alliance. US policy must strengthen the entire NATO commitment to defend itself, including all its members, against the continuing Russian threat. Stopping or delaying NS2 is a good place to start, even now.