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Tracking Nord Stream 2 Disinfo

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Polish pro-Kremlin media present Nord Stream 2 – the Russian gas pipeline running under the Baltic Sea to Germany – as a fait accompli.  But the pipeline’s future is still up for grabs; the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the European Commission are still debating whether to oppose or regulate the project.

On 26-28 May, the Polish parliament, or Sejm, hosted the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, a biannual gathering of legislators from 29 NATO member states. European energy security was a dominant theme at the assembly, with Poland and Lithuania arguing that Nord Stream 2 is a threat to the security of NATO member states. During the summit, Ausrine Armonaite, rapporteur for the Subcommittee of Transformation and Development, introduced a report entitled A Call for Energy Security in Central Eastern Europe. According to the report, NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe find themselves in a difficult situation due to their dependency on Russian gas, and the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline would only deepen their dependency. The report argues that Nord Stream 2 should be on the security agenda of the Alliance, given Gazprom’s negative influence on the European market and the pipeline’s implications for NATO member states’ national security.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki raised Nord Stream 2 during the Parliamentary Assembly, repeating Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s statement that the pipeline is the “poison pill of European security” and calling on the Alliance to take measures to stop the project. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, however, responded that there is no consensus within NATO on this issue, and asserted that the Alliance lacks tools to respond to the threat. It is worth remembering that Germany defended Nord Stream 2 to NATO member states by engaging in political talks about the project with the Kremlin on multiple occasions.

The pro-Kremlin propaganda outlet Sputnik has made Nord Stream 2 a frequent topic. On 28 May, Sergiy Pravosudov, an expert at the National Institute of Energy – a Russian state-sponsored think tank – used arguments frequently employed by the Kremlin to support the pipeline. “Countries like Poland and the Baltic states are traditionally opposed to these projects,” he said. “They also opposed the first Nord Stream. They simply do not want any pipeline. But they are not stakeholders in the project – the pipeline does not pass through their territory,” he argued. He pointed to the first Nord Stream pipeline through the Baltic Sea, a project that similarly divided European allies in the last decade. “NATO has nothing to do with it. It’s an economic project concerning the countries involved in it, and who cares if it upsets someone?” said Pravosudov. The same day, Andrzej Szczęśniak, a media figure who supports energy cooperation with Russia – declared that Nord Stream 2 is a done deal and that construction will begin this coming July.

A subsequent Polish-language version of Sputnik argued that Ukraine – which stands to lose its position as the transit country for Russian gas if Nord Stream 2 comes online – was looking for a deal guaranteeing a sufficient level of gas deliveries through Ukraine should the pipeline be launched. The European Commission, Ukraine, and Russia are planning to discuss a possible deal, and negotiations are supported by all sides.

None of this is true; Ukraine adamantly opposes Nord Stream 2. These disinformation tactics are designed to weaken European resistance to the project. Russian propagandists use familiar means, including card-stacking, the use of incomplete information to bolster pro-Kremlin narratives; and totum pro parte, portraying one expert’s opinion as though it represents the sum of opinions on a topic.

Nord Stream 2 has not yet received final approval from the EU, and it may face U.S. sanctions or regulation by the European Union Council. If EU regulations come into force before the project is ready, the project’s proponents would need to demonstrate compliance with EU anti-monopoly regulations to get a green light from Brussels. Despite Kremlin misinformation, this uncertainty may curb the enthusiasm of the project’s Eastern partners. The battle over Nord Stream 2 is not yet over.

Photo: “Spirit of Europe Sign ‘Nord Stream’” by Pjotr Mahhonin under CC BY-SA 4.0