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16 October, 2013 13:21   ▪  

Ukraine could become a hostage of the German-Russian energy cooperation

Germany’s trade, financial, and investment policies towards Russia, notably on the issue of natural gas, have contributed to re-shaping the post-Soviet Eastern European geo-economic landscape. As a result, Ukraine could become a hostage of Berlin’s recent Ostpolitik, Andreas Umland, DAAD Associate Professor of Political Science, National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy admits in his article for The Foreign Policy Journal.

“Clearly, the German politicians and managers involved in Moscow’s projects would strongly reject being associated with Russian neo-imperial schemes. Those who are familiar with the way present Kremlin domestic and foreign politics work will, however, know that the activities of the major Russian state-owned corporations do not strictly abide by economic principles. This is especially true of the current biggest player, the Gazprom corporation, which is involved in various politically as well as geo-economically important projects in and outside of Russia,” Mr. Umland says

The combination of the substantial economic potential of Russia with the commercial interests of certain German politicians and entrepreneurs has led to the  situation, in which German companies appear to assist Moscow in its reshaping of the East European geo-economic landscape.  “The Kremlin skilfully plays on Germany’s lack of knowledge, missing concern or purposeful self-delusion about the deeper motives of Russian foreign economic policies towards the other former Soviet republics,” the expert claims.

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“A number of German companies and public figures have embarked in unusually close cooperation with the Russian state or firms close to the government. The prominent role of two veteran politicians of Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the Gazprom business empire is especially surprising: since 2005 Gerhard Schröder, the FRG’s former Chancellor, has been the chairman of the supervisory board of the management company of Nord Stream, while the former SPD mayor of Hamburg, Henning Voscherau, has exercised the same role in the South Stream Transport AG since April 2012,” Mr. Umland says. For him it is astonishing how blatantly high representatives of German social democracy support a state-owned company of Putin’s authoritarian regime and its dubious geo-economic projects.

The total cost of Nord Stream and South Stream could account to up to 40 billion euro. “There are alternative strategies to secure Europe’s gas supply, which would be cheaper than the expensive offshore projects. With the completion of Nord Stream at the end of 2012, the overall transport capacities for gas from Russia towards the EU were of ca. 250 billion cubic metres even though Russia’s actual gas exports to the West in 2011, for instance, amounted to merely 112 billion cubic metres, ” the expert claims.

Nevertheless, Mr. Umland says that whatever one may think about the utility and reliability of the new underwater gas pipelines for the West, the bottom line is that the less Russia requires Ukrainian pipelines for its gas exports into the EU, the weaker the interdependence between Europe’s two largest countries will be. 

“As Russia has become increasingly able to fulfil its delivery commitments to the West without the two ‘brother nations’, the economic barriers for an escalation of political disputes are disappearing. In the worst case, this could induce the Kremlin to act as relentlessly in the Eastern Slavic area as it currently does in Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Berlin cannot afford to ignore such scenarios,” Andreas Umland underscored

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