Nord Stream 2 SECURITY 2 July, 2018 10:00 am   
Editorial staff

Høvsgaard: Nord Stream 2 is a Russian roulette for European security (INTERVIEW)

– Nord Stream 2 is a highly political project, aimed to bypass Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States, but Denmark will eventually give its permission to build it because we don’t have the necessary backup from the US and the EU – said Jens Høvsgaard, an author of a book „Spies who came in with the heat”, revealing controversial details about Gazprom’s project. Many observers of political life say that Nord Stream 2 is a corruption deal of a century. Would you agree with such a statement?

Jens Høvsgaard: I fully agree, that is why I wrote my book. It is a corrupted project supported by a corrupted company. You see, Gazprom and Nord Stream are not usual companies because the way they do business is unprecedented in other countries. When you do business with Gazprom, you actually do business with the Kremlin and Putin. It is a highly political company. When you look at the management board of Gazprom, most of its members formerly worked for intelligence. Its operational model has the hallmarks of money laundering.

What do you think about the discussion in Denmark concerning Nord Stream 2?

That is not a big topic in Denmark. A usual Dane is not aware about this issue, but there has been much said about the way that Putin uses gas trading as a geopolitical weapon, so the majority of people who know about this project are against it. The Danish government is also against it, but in a very delicate way.

Could the Danish government be more determined if there was more pressure from the society?

Yes, and that is why the Danish government has not granted the permission yet. But you see, Denmark will give that permission in the end, unless it is supported by the European Union or the United States. Denmark cannot stand against Russia if it’s on its own, we cannot fight Nord Stream 2 alone, we need backup from the EU, which will be hard to achieve, because Germany’s role in it is too powerful.

Currently works on the gas directive are going on, what may help to fight Nord Stream 2.

Germany is the major country in the EU, so if they want Nord Stream, they will build it. It is a political project, because the gas transit routes through Poland and Ukraine could fully satisfy the demand, and its construction is very expensive and unaffordable. If building a new pipeline was necessary, it could as well be on land. The reasons to build both lines of Nord Stream are aimed to bypass countries like Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States.

Last year, the Danish parliament adopted a law, thanks to which the government can block the construction of a pipeline that could be perceived as a threat to Danish national security.

They could have done that over ten years ago, when the first line of Nord Stream was built. Denmark could reject building Nord Stream just for the color of the pipes and that would be enough. They needed to adopt it because they gave their consent ten years ago and now they were looking for a legal reason to resist it. 

In the introduction you write that every big energy company looks for people from the industry, who graduated prestigious universities, whereas Gazprom hires people who previously worked for intelligence services.

Yes, it is a very strange human resource department that they have in Gazprom (laughs). In an application letter you could write that you worked for Stasi or KGB. Most of Gazprom management board are former officers. 

What political powers support Nord Stream 2 in Denmark?

It is openly supported by a right-wing populist Danish People’s Party, who call it a purely commercial project. The present parliamentary constellation in Denmark makes it impossible to rule without their support, that is why they are a very important camp on the Danish political scene. But they are also internally divided, there is a big discussion going on within this party whether to support this project. There are many important members of theirs who are against.

You discussed your book in Germany. How was your book received there?

This is very tricky. The way that Germany is behaving right now is playing a Russian roulette with their own and European security. The German-Russian story goes back to Willy Brandt and his Ostpolitik, and now Germany, Austria and Russia have common interests. The German version of the book is going to be out in half a year.

In the introduction of the Polish edition of your book you quote a Russian saying – „They hang the small thieves and celebrate the great ones”. Who is a small thief, and who is a great one in this case?

I believe that the great thieves are Gazprom and Putin. What I meant by that is, if you are corrupted, but you hide that well, you don’t end up in prison, you are rather lifted up and accepted. 

What do you think about Gazprom advertising during the World Cup and other sports events?

This is a perfect window for Putin to communicate with the world. He is trying to say: hey, I’m not a bad guy. You are accusing me for Syria, annexation of Crimea, killing critics and journalists, but I’m a football fan who you would like to have a beer with. He shows up there with the president of FIFA Gianni Infantino, that is pure public relations. In Denmark there have been discussions whether members of the government and the parliament should go to Russia and support the Danish national team, but they came to a conclusion that it would not be right. Sports events were often used by dictators in the past to soften their image. 

What is your opinion about the Baltic Pipe project, a pipeline from Norway through Denmark to Poland?

For Poland and other countries in the region Baltic Pipe could be a brilliant alternative for Russian gas. I think it may be problematic in Denmark though. Farmers and environmentalists can and will object it. Most of the Danes support the renewable energy sources, but the government supports Baltic Pipe, and our prime ministers already shook their hands on it.

Interview conducted by Bartłomiej Sawicki and Michał Perzyński.