By Steven Pifer
Congress has lengthy weighed sanctions as a instrument to dam the Nord Stream II gasoline pipeline below the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. Sadly, it has mulled the query too lengthy, and time has run out. With some 85% of the pipeline already laid, new congressional sanctions aimed toward corporations collaborating within the pipeline’s building won’t cease it. As a substitute, they’ll turn out to be a brand new bone of competition between the USA and Europe.
There’s a smarter approach for Congress to proceed, one that might keep away from a U.S.-Europe spat whereas guaranteeing important gasoline flows proceed to transit by means of pipelines in Ukraine.
The enormous Russian Gazprom parastatal firm at present strikes a considerable amount of gasoline by means of Ukraine to locations positioned additional west in Europe. In 2018, the quantity totaled 87 billion cubic meters (BCM), shipped below a contract that expires on the finish of 2019.
The Ukrainians wish to negotiate a brand new long-term contract, ideally, for 10 years. Russian negotiators, nonetheless, have proposed an settlement that may final just one 12 months, anticipating completion in 2020 of Nord Stream II and a separate pipeline to Turkey. The 2 new pipelines may have a mixed capability of about 71 BCM, that means that they might take a lot of the gasoline that now traverses pipelines by means of Ukraine.
These new pipelines replicate a choice taken by Moscow greater than a decade in the past to search out methods to get gasoline to Europe that circumvent Ukraine. The Russian authorities and Gazprom search to eradicate Gazprom’s dependence on Ukrainian pipelines in addition to to finish the transit charges that final 12 months generated $three billion in income for Kyiv.
As Russia has decreased its dependence on Ukraine for transiting gasoline, Kyiv stopped importing gasoline instantly from Russia for Ukrainian use in 2015, as an alternative bringing gasoline in from Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. That gasoline fills about one-third of Ukraine’s wants, with home manufacturing satisfying the rest.
The European Union has sought to facilitate settlement between Kyiv and Moscow on a brand new contract on gasoline transit. A deal up to now has eluded negotiators, given the broad distinction in proposals for a brand new contract’s length and Russia’s unreasonable demand that Ukraine drop a $2.7 billion judgment it received in opposition to Gazprom.
That every one raises questions as to what occurs on January 1, 2020. Some suspect that, if there isn’t a agreed contract, Gazprom would possibly nonetheless proceed to ship gasoline west by way of Ukrainian pipelines, daring Kyiv to cease the move and incur the wrath of these European international locations that rely on that gasoline.
European Union officers have prompt a 10-year contract with a provision requiring that 60 BCM of gasoline be shipped annually by way of Ukraine. Whereas making clear her assist for Nord Stream II, German Chancellor Angela Merkel additionally expressed assist for Ukraine persevering with to transit important volumes of Russian gasoline.
Nord Stream II has involved Congress, which fears the pipeline would deepen Europe’s dependence on Russian gasoline and would permit Gazprom to scale back the gasoline it ships by way of Ukraine, maybe to a trickle. Committees in each homes of Congress have developed laws to sanction corporations concerned in setting up the pipeline, notably these proudly owning the ships which are laying the pipes. Nonetheless, on condition that the pipeline is nearly full and Congress has not but handed the laws, these sanctions might find yourself punishing European corporations — however not really stopping the pipeline.
It’s going to show troublesome for Congress to make Europe minimize its dependence on Russian gasoline.
It’s going to show troublesome for Congress to make Europe minimize its dependence on Russian gasoline. In any case, Nord Stream II is much less about how a lot gasoline Europe buys from Russia than about how Russia ships that gasoline to European markets.
On the latter query, Congress might assist defend gasoline transit by means of Ukraine. It might amend the laws, maybe by including provisions to supply for waiving the Nord Stream II-related sanctions if a long-term gasoline transit contract have been agreed on between Kyiv and Moscow, a contract that entailed a major move of gasoline by means of Ukraine. That will give EU negotiators and Merkel a further incentive to dealer an settlement sustaining important gasoline transit revenues for Kyiv.
Clearly, Congress’s most popular answer is to dam Nord Stream II. That now appears all however inconceivable. Congress nonetheless has an opportunity to facilitate a second-best final result, one that may be certain that Ukraine might proceed to reap the benefits of — and revenue from — its place as a transit nation for Russian gasoline whereas avoiding creation of a brand new space of disagreement with Europe. Congress ought to amend its laws accordingly.