By Mykhailo Gonchar, Centre for Global Studies Strategy XXI
It does not make sense to deeply analyze the work of German and American lobbyists of the Kremlin's Nord Stream 2 project, which was hastily made and skillfully carried out through Washington circles. It may one day be the subject of parliamentary inquiries in the United States and Germany.
It doesn't make sense to analyze in detail, because its goal is to help the completion of Nord Stream 2, hybridly disguised by lobbyists to take care of Ukraine.
After all, everything that concerns various "sweet promises" to Ukraine is a prank veiled in the style of the famous 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
If it was about maintaining the status quo of gas transportation through Ukraine to the EU and security guarantees in this regard, then a document like "On the introduction of a moratorium on the completion of NS2 and guarantees of energy security in the Central and Eastern European states," was signed by Joe Biden and Angela Merkel.
The German Greens proposed a moratorium a few months ago, but without the appropriate lobbying potential not only in Washington but even in the Bundestag, they failed to implement the idea. Instead, it frantically intensified the Kremlin's German proxies, including Angela Merkel.
Now it is necessary to look why it happened and what to do.
At first, why did it happen. This is important to understand in order to develop an appropriate algorithm for continuing to counter Nord Stream 2 as another mechanism of the Kremlin in its hybrid aggression in Europe.
Here are seven key theses.
- The United States suffered an invisible but large-scale defeat in cyberspace in December 2020 (attack on SolarWinds). Over time, it became clear that this had become a cyber Pearl Harbor for the United States. It was inflicted by the Putin regime; the offensive was developed by cyber forces of "ikhtamnets"in May 2021 by striking the Colonial Pipeline.
In this way, Russia has created a new vulnerability for the United States and its current administration. The United States, of course, is a powerful country, but not omnipotent. They do not know (yet) how to neutralize the invisible enemy. They drag time, study the theater of operations (in cyberspace), are forced to make concessions to the "ikhtamnets" so as not to get worse. This is used by Russia, acting through German proxies.
- In practice, the German federal government is acting as a proxy for the Kremlin, taking the initiative to neutralize US sanctions against the Russian project. The paradox is that Berlin keeps repeating the mantra that this is a private project of a group of companies and that the federal government has nothing to do with it, but that officials are empowered to go to Washington, negotiate and formulate an official document. The Kremlin applauds the skills of German proxies. The high art of hybrid special operations is that the enemy does everything you need with their hands.
- Adding to the US cyber vulnerability, the existing hard vulnerability of some American companies that were once trapped in Russia, is of great importance. This means the second largest company in the United States, Chevron, whose 18% of oil production goes to the world market from the Kazakh field through the Tengiz-Novorossiysk pipeline, which is operated by Russia's state-owned Transneft. Probably, the blackmail of Chevron by the Russians prompted it to covertly act in favor of the Kremlin through lobbying structures. And what the Kremlin needs is well known. It is noteworthy that the official lobbyist of both Nord Stream 2 AG and Chevron in Washington is BGR Group, already known in Ukraine. It is no coincidence that Chevron was one of the few American companies in the United States to oppose sanctions against Russia. The company suffered a crushing defeat in the early 2000s from Gazprom's anti-shale propaganda in Europe (the most striking example being Bulgaria) and curtailed its projects in favor of Russia.
- The helplessness of European institutions in counteracting Russia's energy expansion in Europe became apparent not today, but five years ago.
They proved unable to stop NS2 at an early stage, despite the fact that the project contradicted the declared principles of the EU Energy Union, established in 2015.
Does anyone else remember that there is an Energy Union in the EU, and that there is an Energy Community created by the EU, of which Ukraine has been a member since 2011?
Despite the fact that both the European Parliament (strongly) rejected the NS2 project and the European Commission (sluggishly) opposed it, however, due to German dominance in the EU institutions, it received a regime of passive resistance, which generally satisfied the Russians.
The only success of the European institutions is the extension of the EU Gas Directive to Gazprom's offshore gas pipelines, but this is largely due to Poland and Romania, which did not allow the Russians and their henchmen to live in peace in Brussels.
- Ukraine's (un) organized resistance to Russian bypass projects has undoubtedly played a role in the current situation. On the one hand, we are very successful, because no other similar project of Gazprom - neither "Blue Stream", nor "South Stream", nor "Nord Stream", nor "TurkStream" - had such an international resonance as NS2. This is primarily due to Naftogaz's corporate efforts over the past six years, in fact, since the appearance of this Putin project in public.
But on the other hand, both the previous government and the current residents of Bankova (translator’s note: Office of the President of Ukraine) did not form a state vertical of energy security, did not create a systemic policy not only of direct opposition to Kremlin projects, but also coordinated interaction with our partners at the state level - USA, Poland, Baltic states, to neutralize the threats generated by Russia in the energy sector.
We can say that corporate diplomacy has fulfilled the function of the state and has achieved considerable success – the US sanctions against NS2, which delayed its completion and forced Gazprom to enter into a new agreement with Naftogaz in 2019. But that was not enough to stop the project forever.
Now this short-sightedness at the state level is showing.
Prominent manifestations are the unprofessional refusal of certain Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine’s officials to initiate an antitrust investigation, and the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to sanction the operator Nord Stream 2 AG.
- The actions of Russia and Gazprom in the post-US sanctions phase at the end of 2019 continued, but became less noticeable. Understandably, Schroeder-Warnig's "German squad," operating in the deep rear of Europe, quietly continued to do "Putin's case," recovering from a sanctions strike by the US Congress and inspired by post-election turmoil in Washington. Russia does not need to be overly active now. Germany (ally) and the United States (adversary) follow the algorithm needed by Russia to win the NS2 case.
- Chinese factor. It is not directly manifested here, but it has an indirect effect, because Washington is dominated by a misconception about the possibility of China's opposition through a global alliance with Germany and Russia. However, another informal alliance has been formed: China + (Russia + Germany), aimed at neutralizing the United States and the European Union as global centers of power. Russia's pipeline projects in the West (flows in the Baltic and Black Seas) and the East (Power of Siberia) aim to create "pipeline staples" for the alliance.
Of course, this is not a complete list of reasons that led to the current situation. However, these are the main factors of influence that must be taken into account when determining the further recipe for neutralizing Russian gas octopus in Europe. It is worth remembering: the case does not look as hopeless as it may seem at first glance. At least because at the time when Merkel was on her way to Washington, the course of the history of Putin's streams was changed by the EU Court. Consequently, the struggle continues. And in the following text we will analyze in more detail what Ukraine should do in the current situation.
 translator’s note: from Russian “их там нет” – Russian meme and neologism, which arose due to Russia's constant denial of its military presence in aggressive hybrid wars against individual countries and, above all, during the intervention in Crimea and in the war in eastern Ukraine.