Nord Stream 2: what is Ukraine fighting for?

On July 21, the United States and Germany said they reached an agreement to allow completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. They also released a joint statement pledging support for Ukraine. Ukraine and Poland responded with a joint statement. They will join efforts with allies and partners to confront Nord Stream 2, until there are solutions to the security crisis caused by the pipeline, the statement reads.   

Ukraine started consultations with the European Commission and Germany on Nord Stream 2 underscoring that the pipeline poses a threat to the security of Ukraine and violates the energy diversification principles of EU’s Energy Union. What did the U.S. and Germany agree on? Why did the agreement leave Ukraine dissatisfied? How does Ukraine continue to assert its interests and protect its security? Here is what the media have been reporting.  

Agreement between Washington and Berlin, and pledges to Ukraine. The Joint Statement begins by saying that “the United States and Germany are steadfast in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and chosen European path. We recommit ourselves today to push back against Russian aggression and malign activities in Ukraine and beyond.”

Also, the U.S. and Germany “commit to working together via the newly established U.S.-EU High Level Dialogue on Russia, and via bilateral channels, to ensure the United States and the EU remain prepared, including with appropriate tools and mechanisms, to respond together to Russian aggression and malign activities, including Russian efforts to use energy as a weapon.” 

“The United States and Germany are united in their belief that it is in Ukraine’s and Europe’s interest for gas transit via Ukraine to continue beyond 2024. In line with this belief, Germany commits to utilize all available leverage to facilitate an extension of up to 10 years to Ukraine’s gas transit agreement with Russia, including appointing a special envoy to support those negotiations, to begin as soon as possible and no later than September 1.” 

“In line with these efforts, Germany commits to establish and administer a Green Fund for Ukraine to support Ukraine’s energy transition, energy efficiency, and energy security. Germany and the United States will endeavor to promote and support investments of at least $1 billion in the Green Fund for Ukraine, including from third parties such as private-sector entities,” the statement reads.

Reaction by Ukraine. Ukraine and Poland produced a joint response to the deal. In a joint statement, Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and Poland assert that the states will work together and rely on wider support to confront Nord Stream 2 going into operation, until solutions are in place to resolve the security crisis over the pipeline. 

“The decision to build Nord Stream 2 made in 2015 mere months after Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, created security, credibility and political crisis in Europe,” reads the statement signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba and his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau.

“Currently, this crisis is significantly deepened by the resignation from attempts to stop the launch of the NS2 gas pipeline. This decision has created political, military and energy threat for Ukraine and Central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilize the security situation in Europe, perpetuating divisions among NATO and European Union member states.” 

“Each credible attempt to cover the security deficit must take into account its negative consequences in three areas: political, military and energy. Such an attempt shall also have a democratic dimension, that assumes talks with governments of the countries most affected by the negative effects of NS2 at the stage of reaching an agreement,” the foreign ministers underscored.

“Unfortunately, the hitherto proposals to cover the resulting security deficit cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by NS2. We call on the United States and Germany to adequately address the security crisis in our region, that Russia is the only beneficiary to.”

In Ukraine, there are doubts that Russia has taken seriously the warnings of sanctions that the U.S. and Germany claim ready to impose, should it attempt to use energy as a weapon against Ukraine. The deal between Washington and Berlin is of no consideration to Moscow, the latter demonstrated. Ukraine should not hope for a new gas transit deal for another ten years. Instead, it should prepare for the damage from the loss of the transit fees. 

Ukraine to push for sanctions against the operator of Nord Stream 2. Ukraine will push for sanctions against the company Nord Stream 2 AG that has applied to be certified as the pipeline’s operator. Unless it’s certified by the German regulator, gas exporters will not be able to book the pipeline capacity or receive gas via the pipeline, said Yuriy Vitrenko, head of the board of the Ukrainian state-owned energy company Natfogaz speaking to journalists in Washington on July 22.   

Security challenges facing Ukraine have not been addressed, Vitrenko said commenting on the recent deal between the U.S. and Germany. Ukraine continues to explain that as long as Russia uses gas as a geopolitical tool, the U.S. needs to maintain the sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and the key project actors, he added. 

Threats entailed by Nord Stream 2 going into operation, will be high on the agenda of President Zelenskyi’s visit to the U.S. in late August, Vitrenko said. He added that Nord Stream 2 AG is fully owned by Gazprom, so “imposing sanctions on an operator that is Russia’s de-facto geopolitical weapon, is normal.” If it comes under sanctions, European gas exporters will not be able to book the pipeline capacity or receive gas via the pipeline, Vitrenko said. 

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba: “Game not over, it went into extra time.” During a recent visit in Donbas with the Foreign Minister of Hungary Péter Szijjártó, Kuleba said: 

“Yesterday, the game was not over. It went into extra time. There are two more halves, and the game can go into penalties too, if that is what is required to safeguard the interests of Ukraine. The statement by the U.S. and Germany should not be seen as the end of the story. Many things still lie ahead: certification of Nord Stream 2, insurance, and, what’s key, (we’ll see) if the pledges in the statement are implemented.” 

On Wednesday, Ukraine not only made a political statement on the deal between the U.S. and Germany, but also took legal steps by starting consultations with the European Union, Kuleba said. 

“We’ll ask our partners about their vision of the implementation of those agreements, so that they will not weaken the energy security of Ukraine and Central Europe as a whole. Secondly, yesterday’s statement has no effect on security of Ukraine that is compromised by Nord Stream 2 going into operation. That’s our biggest objection, the security part lacks clarity and detail,” the Foreign Minister said.

During the consultations, the EU and Ukraine will also discuss the conformity of Nord Stream 2 under the Third Energy Package.

“We have to hold those consultations so that we can see if Nord Stream 2 violates the EU law, the principle of solidarity, and the respective provision of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement,” Kuleba explained.