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Nord Stream 2 proposals insufficient to counter security threat: Ukraine, Poland

Highlights

US, Germany reach deal on mitigating pipeline impact

Ukraine President to visit Washington on Aug. 30

'No agreement on Ukraine without Ukraine': Vitrenko

US and German measures designed to help prevent Russia from using the almost-complete Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as a "weapon" are insufficient to counter the project's security threat, the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland said late July 21.

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A joint agreement announced by Washington and Berlin includes provisions to help secure the future role of Ukraine as a transit country for Russian gas as well as pledges on potential sanctions against Moscow should it "misuse" Nord Stream 2 to achieve "aggressive political ends."

The project's opponents say the 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 will increase Europe's dependence on a single route and source of gas, and would potentially deprive Ukraine and Poland of strategic leverage in terms of Russian gas transit.

"Unfortunately, the proposals to cover the resulting security deficit cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by Nord Stream 2," Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau said in a joint statement.

"We call on the US and Germany to adequately address the security crisis in our region, which Russia is the only beneficiary to," they said.

"Ukraine and Poland will work together with their allies and partners to oppose Nord Stream 2 until solutions are developed to address the security crisis created by Nord Stream 2."

Transit fears

Russia's state-controlled Gazprom could divert much of the gas it currently transits via Ukraine into Nord Stream 2, while Warsaw fears it could also see Russian gas transit via Poland curtailed in the future.

Kyiv has also repeatedly expressed its fears of renewed military aggression by Russia if Moscow no longer relies on Ukraine for gas transit to Europe.

Gazprom has agreed to transit 40 Bcm/year of Russian gas via Ukraine from 2021 until 2024 -- down from a recent peak of 94 Bcm in 2017 -- as it looks to divert gas away from Ukraine into Nord Stream 2.

As part of the US-German pact, Berlin said it had committed to using "all available leverage" to facilitate an extension of up to 10 years to Ukraine's gas transit agreement with Russia.

Negotiations are to begin "as soon as possible" and no later than Sept. 1, it said.

The announcement was also followed by an agreement for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to visit Washington on Aug. 30.

In a statement, Zelenkskiy's office said talks regarding Nord Stream 2 "as a security threat for Ukraine and the region" would be continued.

Sanctions threat

Yuriy Vitrenko, the CEO of Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz, also said there could be "no compensation" for the security threat that Nord Stream 2 represented to Ukraine.

According to comments posted to the Naftogaz website, Vitrenko doubted that the use of sanctions to limit Russian energy supplies to Europe would be an effective tool.

In the US-German pact, the countries said that if Russia attempted to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany would "take action at the national level and press for effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector, including gas."

Vitrenko said it was "unbelievable" that Berlin could impose sanctions on Russian gas exports to Germany in the event of a full-scale war in Ukraine.

"That would mean that German consumers will be left without heat and gas," he said. "We must be realistic, understand these risks in advance and not allow it to be too late."

He also doubted whether Germany would be able to guarantee the transit of gas through Ukraine and whether Russia would be true to its word to continue transit.

"Nord Stream 2 is a threat to the security of Ukraine and the entire region. This is not a question of compensation, this is a question of regional security, and therefore we hope that the principle of 'no agreement on Ukraine without Ukraine' will be observed," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, also discussed Nord Stream 2 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a telephone conversation on July 21.

In a statement released by the Kremlin, it was noted that the two leaders were "satisfied" with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

"[Putin] noted Germany's consistent commitment to implementing this project, which is strictly a commercial venture and is designed to enhance energy security of Germany and the rest of the EU," it said.

Putin and Merkel also discussed "the opportunity to extend the agreement between Gazprom and Naftogaz on transporting gas via Ukrainian territory after 2024 as well."