BY DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI MP
Post Brexit we must back America and NATO over Germany’s dangerous over dependence on Russia and the ramifications that has for our Eastern European partners.
In December 2019, the United States moved to impose sanctions on companies involved in ‘Nord Stream 2’, the Russian bid to build an energy pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Now that we have finally left the European Union, it’s time for United Kingdom to step up and help to kill this project off once and for all.
Energy is a central weapon in foreign policy arsenal. Germany, by increasing the European reliance on Russian oil and gas and by co-sponsoring the new pipeline, would fatally undermine to protect Eastern Europe’s and its own independence.
That’s why I, as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland, having been backed by dozens of MPs, have warned time and again that Nord Stream 2 poses an existential threat to the security of both that country and the whole of NATO’s eastern flank. By controlling the pipeline, a foreign power could any time determine whether Europe receives its gas or not.
It is difficult to overstate the scale of the betrayal this pipeline represents. Germany is a NATO member, committed (on paper) to the defence of the continent against potential Russian meddling and influence.
Yet not only does Berlin consistently fail to commit anything like the two per cent of GDP to defence that is expected of NATO members, it is now actively putting hard currency in the hands of the very rogue powers the alliance exists to contain. Every euro Germany spends importing Russian gas is money that can be spent on building a diversified energy and oil sector in Europe.
Worse, binding Germany’s industrial power into Vladimir Putin’s energy network leaves the EU’s pre-eminent Member State increasingly exposed to Russian influence – and dependent on Russian goodwill.
This is extraordinary conduct by a supposedly allied nation. It is little wonder that Donald Trump took Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of NATO, to task at a 2018 summit for Germany’s negligent approach to its treaty obligations. The US President has described Germany as a “prisoner of Russia”.
Foreign and commercial policy cannot be separated. Just as Covid-19 has sparked a renewed commitment amongst the world’s democracies to reduce their reliance on Chinese manufacturing, so must Putin’s interference in Ukraine be met with an equal commitment to reduce Europe’s strategic exposure to Russia. That means containing, not expanding, use of Russian oil and gas.
Instead, we should be aiming to deepen our commercial links with NATO partners, and build an energy infrastructure network which reinforces, rather than undermines, the integrity of the Atlantic alliance.
This can be done, and Poland is leading the way. Rather than fighting for scraps from Putin’s table, Warsaw is investing in alternative supplies. The Polish Government have built a huge liquified gas terminal near Szczecin and are orienting their entire energy policy towards imports from Norway and the United States – NATO allies both.
Let’s be very clear: this will come with an economic cost. Beyond the up-front expense of all the new infrastructure, Russian Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is usually cheaper than American and Poland is opting out of it. For a country whose exports often compete on low prices, this will not have been an easy decision.
But Poland has recognised that there are more important things than making a quick buck in the here and now. Instead it is behaving as an exemplary ally, investing not only in its own network but helping the United States offer an alternative supply of energy to beleaguered Belarus. For its part, America is actively trying to offer countries an alternative to reliance on gas only from one state.
By contrast, Angela Merkel has worked hard to protect Nord Stream 2 from EU sanctions after Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and previously shuttered Germany’s perfectly functional nuclear power stations in favour of increased reliance on imported gas. Weighed against its paltry military spending, Germany’s net contribution to European security may well be negative.
I have discussed the importance of this problem with Boris Johnson in the past and earlier this year I pressed the Government to act. But ministers informed me that we can’t impose unilateral sanctions because, during the transition period, Britain is still bound to Brussels’ sanction regime.
It is therefore more important than ever that the Prime Minister does not extend it. We have a duty to our NATO allies, especially those on the front line in Eastern Europe, to take back control of our foreign policy, reinforce the American sanction regime, and make sure that Nord Stream 2 is never completed. The fate of more than one nation may depend on it.
Daniel Kawczynski MP is the Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham.