Moscow transports Nord Stream 2 disinformation downstream

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On 11 May, Russian propaganda portal Sputnik posted an interview with Sergei Nechayev, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Third European department, falsely claiming that the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline has Europe’s support and that Poland unreasonably opposes the project. “I think that our Polish colleagues are overly politicizing this strictly economic international project,” he said. “Europe’s energy security depends on its success.” Nechayev added that it is not clear why Warsaw’s view of Nord Stream 2 is so negative, since Poles use and transport significant amounts of gas from Russia. 

“Moscow is ready for a constructive dialogue with Warsaw if the latter “reaches out,” claimed Nechayev, adding that Europeans are interested in Nord Stream 2 because “companies from many states are participating in the consortium. It is not only Russia and Germany, but in general, Europe’s energy security depends on its success.” 

Nord Stream 2 would link Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, transporting up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The project is 100 percent owned by Russia’s Gazprom and is verbally supported by five European companies: E.on/Uniper and BASF/Wintershall (Germany); Shell (Netherlands-UK); Engie (France) and OMV (Austria). All have agreed to fund its construction with loans. However, these entities cannot enter the consortium because the project does not comply with EU anti-monopoly regulations. The European Commission (EC) has deemed the project unnecessary, warning it would not bolster Europe’s energy security. 

Nechayev’s remarks and other Kremlin comments on the issue aim to present Nord Stream 2 as a rational, economically justified project serving European interests. According to Russian propaganda, Poland cannot stop the project because it is already happening. They also try to create the impression that Poland is diplomatically isolated on the issue and that it is hampering a good business deal supported by other Europeans. That is untrue. In fact, EU members are divided in their assessment of the project, whose regulatory status is currently unresolved.

The Visegrad Group, the Baltic and Nordic states and Ukraine all support Poland’s opposition to the project, which is based on Poland’s desire to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. Warsaw also believes the project would threaten the competitiveness of its LNG terminal in Świnoujście and the planned Norwegian Corridor—elements of the Northern Gateway.  Nechaeyev also does not mention that in 2016, Polish petroleum and mining company PGNiG (Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo) pointed out six contract violations by Gazprom on gas supplies between Warsaw and Moscow. 

Although the project supporters claim that, far from endangering Europe’s energy security it would in fact be a new supply of gas compensating for Europe’s declining gas production, the EC predicts that European natural gas demand will stay flat thanks to the development of new renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency, which reduces gas consumption.

In his interview, Nechayev proposed talks on how to reconcile the project with European law. Such talks might prolong the Nord Stream 2 project, but in the end are unlikely to make it more compliant. Opposition to Nord Stream 2 in Poland and other member states is raising the project’s political cost.

Photo: “Gazprom” by ruben van eijk under CC BY 2.0