After the US Congress decided to levy new sanctions against Russia, in Europe, Germany was especially vocal in its criticism of the move. Biznesalert.pl is talking to Konrad Popławski, an analyst at the Centre for Eastern Studies, about the reasons behind such a stance and the possibilities of blocking Nord Stream 2.
BiznesAlert.pl: Why is Germany opposed to the US sanctions against Russia?
Konrad Popławski: Germany knows that the sanctions will hit Nord Stream 2, in whose promotion it invested so much. Berlin says that the this is a purely commercial project, but as we can see, it is very close to politics. Additionally, it is strongly tied with Germany’s long-term energy strategies and its economic interests. It is also worth noticing that Washington’s increased engagement in European matters collides with Germany’s particular plans.
Does Germany take into consideration European solidarity in its business relations with Russia?
So far Germany has been dexterously balancing between European interests and its businesses with Russia. This happened during the talks about sanctions levied on Russia for annexing Crimea when it was taken care of that the sanctions are not too strict. From a political point of view one can talk about a kind of hypocrisy. One cannot support Ukraine and Russia at the same time. However, recently it has been more popular to claim that Nord Stream 2 is so important for the German economy that Ukraine’s interests need to be ignored.
This is mostly expressed by representatives directly related to Nord Stream 1 or Nord Stream 2. Is the project equally important to the rest of the economy?
Nord Stream is not that significant for Germans in the public debate. The issue appears in the press because of the protests of Central Europe, whereas it is in the interests of a few energy concerns. So far officially in the German public debate, political decisions have been more important than economic. However, today it seems it is the opposite.
Brigitte Zypries the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy stated that the US sanctions were against international law. Do you think that such a critical declaration will contribute to achieving a consensus with Washington?
This is an attempt at putting pressure on Washington. Sigmar Gabriel the Minister of Foreign Affairs made similar statements. This reflects the German public opinion sentiment – over 80% of Germans believe that the latest sanctions against Russia were wrong. So far, in similar polls the results divided roughly equally. This clearly shows the government’s position is shared by the majority of citizens. This is related to the anti-American sentiment in Germany and Donald Trump who is very unpopular there. This fact may be used in the upcoming election campaign to the Bundestag.
Will Germans manage to shield Nord Stream 2 from sanctions?
They will certainly try. The question is whether they will be able to work out a political agreement with Americans, which would lead to this. This in turn will be hard to achieve because the current situation in Washington is very dynamic.
The development of events may lead to a situation where Nord Stream 2 will be perceived as a troublesome project; there is talk about its harmful impact on the environment and agriculture. At this point it is difficult to say who will win this dispute.
Interview by Bartłomiej Sawicki