Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 20.05.2018
Nord Stream 2 is a weapon of war Russia wields against Ukraine. Its only value to the Putin regime is that it will allow Russia to completely bypass Ukraine as a gas transit country. Russia has been at war with Ukraine for over four years, and Russian attacks in Donbas are escalating. When Russian gas is no longer running across Ukraine then Russia will have removed the last restraint on launching a full war of conquest against the whole of Ukraine.
Germany supports Nord Stream 2. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the European Commission, the United States, and Ukraine oppose Nord Stream 2. Faced with strong arguments against the German-Russian plan to divide Europe, the German government only offers the Kremlin propaganda bromide that Nord Stream 2 is an ‘economic project.’
In a last-ditch effort to save Nord Stream 2 from collapse, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the gas pipeline should proceed with Ukraine’s gas transit role remaining intact. At a meeting in Sochi, Russia with Putin, Chancellor Merkel said: “Germany believes Ukraine's role as a transit country should continue after the construction of Nord Stream 2… it has a strategic importance.” She added that “Germany is ready to help ensure such an outcome... It is also necessary to think about guarantees for Ukraine.”
As the only purpose of Nord Stream 2 is to eliminate Ukraine’s role as a gas transit country, there is no way the pipeline can be built under Chancellor Merkel's conditions that will meet Russia’s strategic objectives. There is no guarantee that Germany can get from Russia that will stick – Russia always breaks agreements, and Germany always lets Russia be a scofflaw. Under the terms set out by Chancellor Merkel, Nord Stream 2 is doomed.
Ask any Ukrainian about guarantees from Russia, and you will hear about the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Signed in 1994, the Budapest Memorandum was a security guarantee by Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its recognized borders. Ukraine, in turn, promised to give up all its nuclear weapons (at the time, Ukraine was the third largest nuclear weapons-armed nation on Earth). Ukraine kept its promise. Russia broke its promise and showed that its guarantee was worthless when it invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Russia continues to make its Budapest Memorandum guarantee worthless as it illegally occupies Ukrainian territory (Crimea and part of Donbas). The US and the UK have failed to make good on their guarantee as neither country has taken any effective action to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or required Russia to make good on its guarantee.
The Minsk Agreement is another case that no guarantee coming from Russia can be relied upon. Although it is Russia that is invading Ukraine in Donbas, the Putin regime made two unrecognized proxy statelets (that were created by Russia) the nominal parties to the Minsk Agreement. Russia signed as a guarantor. Russia’s guarantees have proven to be worthless. The Minsk Agreement requires foreign troops to be withdrawn from the conflict, but Russia maintains a massive army of Russian regular and irregular soldiers in the part of Luhansk region and Donetsk region that it controls. The international border between Ukraine and Russia is required to be returned to the control of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine on the Ukrainian side, but Russia keeps sole control of 409 kilometres of the eastern border. Heavy guns (artillery with a calibre greater than 100 millimetres) are required to be withdrawn from the battlefront, but Russian forces use Minsk-proscribed weapons and bombard Ukrainian defenders and civilians every single day.
As a party to the conflict, Ukraine adheres to the Minsk Agreement one-sidedly. Russia – in the guise of the fake ‘republics’ that are nominally parties to the conflict – breaks the Minsk Agreement in every respect. Russia as a guarantor fails to keep its word. France and Germany as guarantors fail to do anything effective to make Russia stop attacking Ukraine.
The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce is where Ukraine and Russia take their disputes about natural gas and gas transit. For the sake of a well-regulated and rules-abiding international gas market, Ukraine respects and adheres to Stockholm Arbitration Court decisions. Russia never abides by any decision that goes against it. On February 28, Ukraine’s Naftogaz won a claim against Russia’s Gazprom for $2.56 billion. Russia has vowed that it will never pay. Russian guarantees about natural gas and gas transit are worthless. Russia launched a failed gas war against Ukraine and the European Union in March of this year. Ukrainian self-sacrifice and efficient management of gas transit saved Europe. Russia proved that it cannot guarantee that it will be a reliable source of natural gas for Europe, because the Putin regime always uses natural gas as a weapon.
The United Nations and the International Court of Justice in The Hague have ruled that Russia must reinstate the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. Russia has ignored the UN and the ICJ, and vowed it will continue to do so. Russian guarantees in the realm of international law are valueless. The Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in the temporarily Russian-occupied territories are suffering because Russia doesn’t abide by guarantees it made to respect the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, the European Convention on Human Rights, or the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe. Guarantees are empty words to Russia – never action or behaviour.
Germany cannot possibly get a guarantee from Russia that gas transit for Ukraine will continue if Nord Stream 2 is built. Germany has never enforced the terms of any guarantee Russia has made in the past. The only purpose of Nord Stream 2 is to bypass Ukraine as a gas transit country and to allow Russia’s war against Ukraine to expand. If a united Europe is to survive, Nord Stream 2 must die.