Experts say that Russia's Nord Stream II gas pipeline project becomes a political project rather than a commercial one as seven European countries signed a letter to the European Council president Donald Tusk and asked the project to be on the agenda of EU leaders summit next month.
The countries, which signed the letter, include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary while Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Greece did not sign the opposition letter.
Richard Kauzlarich, the co-director at the Center for Energy Science and Policy at George Mason University and who also served as the U.S. ambassador to Baku from 1994 to 1997, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that Russia is using Nord Stream II project as a political project to divide the EU on energy just as it used Turkish Stream to divide Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the EU.
Kauzlarich said that Nord Stream I isn't operating at full capacity so the commercial case for Nord Stream II is very weak.
"The logic for the EU rejecting this project on competition and political grounds. Europe is already dependent on Russian gas but Russia is dependent on European customers because it does not have the infrastructure to ship that gas elsewhere, in particular, China," Kauzlarich said.
Former US ambassador stressed that the countries, which are against the Nord Stream II believe that for Russia, gas sales are not commercial but political in nature.
"They don't trust Russia as a reliable gas supplier and believe that the Germans in particular see this as a political thread that can link Russia and the EU at a time sanctions and differences over the fight against Daesh are a source of division," he said and added that "It is clear that this issue is a serious one for the Central and Eastern European countries, who are looking for the US to support them (and we do) in the quest for greater energy independence from Russia."
The Nord Stream II project was announced on June 18, when Shell, Russia’s Gazprom, Germany’s E.ON and BASF along with Austrian OMV signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the project, which will add two additional pipelines to the original Nord Stream project.
The Nord Stream II project is planned to have a 55 billion cubic meter capacity, which will continue from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
However, East European countries including Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine strongly object to the project, fearing a loss in transit fees from delivering Russian gas to Europe through the current pipelines. Each country receives around $3 billion from Russia annually for delivering its gas to Europe through their pipelines.
- "The project will increase dependence on Russia"
"I don't think that there is any doubt that Nord Stream II would increase Europe's dependence on Russian gas," said Gareth Jenkins, a senior fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program.
"Originally, of course, Russia hoped to realize both Nord Stream II and Turkish Stream – and before that South Stream. But, given that Turkish Stream now appears to have been suspended, Nord Stream II has become even more important to Moscow and it is likely to push even harder for it to be realized," Jenkins added.
According to Jenkins, from the perspective of the countries that are planning to buy gas from Nord Stream II, being over-dependent on Russia is better than having no gas at all.
He said that if the protests against Nord Stream II are going to have any impact then they need to be accompanied by a concerted effort to come up with an alternative source.
- "Putin tries to kill many birds with one stone"
George Vlad Niculescu, head of research at the European Geopolitical Forum, a Brussels based think tank said that in geopolitical terms, the project might be the "stone" with which Russian President Putin has attempted "to kill several birds" at the same time.
The expert underlined that Russia tries to underscore its potential of energy partnership with Europe although some of them oppose it.
According to Niculescu, Russia places a strong pressure on Ukraine to review its overall stance against Russia by clearly signaling to Kiev that any efforts to reduce its reliance on mainstay Russian gas supplies, will equate to even stronger efforts to effectively bypass Ukraine as a transit corridor for Russian gas to Ukraine, significantly reducing Kiev’s strategic importance for Moscow.
Niculescu explained that Russia also sends a strong message, which says "be aware of who calls the shots in the energy deals from Central and Eastern Europe to Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus."
Make no mistake, the expansion of Nord Stream 2 has still many hurdles to overcome before it evolves from pipedream to pipeline," he added.
By Murat Temizer