(International Observation) Sanctions on "North Stream-2" reflect the EU's "Achilles' heel"

  China News Agency, Berlin, February 26th: Sanctions on "North Stream-2" reflect the EU's "Achilles' heel"

  China News Agency reporter Peng Dawei

  As the West imposed severe sanctions in response to Russia's military action against Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project, which was urgently halted by Germany before it was put into operation, has once again become the focus of attention of various countries.

Timothy Garton Ash, a prominent Oxford scholar who studies the modern and contemporary history of Central and Eastern Europe, described it as "the most significant sanction measure" the West has so far taken in response to Russia's actions.

  Where did the "Beixi-2" project and its controversy come from?

Why has Germany hesitated for a long time on the issue of sanctioning the project, and was even accused of being "the weakest link of NATO"?

Does this suspension declare the project to be suspended?

How do Nord Stream-2 and related energy issues reflect the EU's "Achilles' heel" on the issue of strategic autonomy?

China News Agency reporters interviewed a number of experts in Europe for in-depth interpretation.

Data map: The pipeline of the "Beixi-2" natural gas pipeline project landing facility.

"Beixi-2": Disputes accompany the construction process and it will be suspended before it is in operation

  The 1,224-kilometer Nord Stream-2 is a subsea gas pipeline from Vyborg, Russia, across the Baltic Sea to Greifswald, Germany.

"Beixi-2" is completely parallel to the "Beixi-1" pipeline that has been built and put into use before. According to the design plan, after it is put into use, the two gas pipelines will transport a total of 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to the In Europe, it is expected to provide the required gas consumption for about 26 million households in the EU.

  In 2013, "Beixi-2" began planning.

However, the Ukrainian crisis that broke out the following year made transit countries such as Ukraine and Poland that have onshore gas pipelines to deliver Russian gas to Europe began to strongly oppose "Russia may use this project as a geopolitical weapon" as an excuse. Construction of North Stream-2".

  In 2018, "Beixi-2" began to be laid.

Then-US President Trump signed a bill in December 2019 to impose sanctions on companies involved in the Nord Stream-2 project.

Merkel's government criticized the US for interfering in Germany's internal affairs and refused to accept such "extraterritorial sanctions".

After Biden took office, the U.S. government has not changed its stance against the construction of the "North Stream-2" project.

In September 2021, the project announced completion of construction.

  According to the analysis, although the "Nord Stream-2" project company is registered in Switzerland, in fact, Germany and Russia are the biggest stakeholders.

In addition, Germany has drawn up a roadmap to fully withdraw from nuclear and coal energy, and the demand for natural gas will only increase in the short term.

Under the superposition of multiple factors, the current German Chancellor Scholz was still reluctant to stop the project until the Munich Security Conference in the middle of this month.

  The reversal of the situation occurred on the 22nd of this month. As the Russian side announced that it recognized the independence of the eastern part of Ukraine, Scholz officially announced the suspension of the approval process of the "Nord Stream-2" project on the same day.

EU sanctions against Russia: setback in strategic autonomy process

  "'Beixi-2' has actually become a victim of geopolitics." Gu Xuewu, a tenured professor of political science and international relations at the University of Bonn and director of the Center for Global Studies, analyzed to reporters that the project may not be available for a long time in the future. The possibility of approval, considering that it has not been put into operation itself, has no material impact on the energy supply of Germany and the EU.

  Stefan Kurtes, deputy director of the Kiel Institute of World Economics in Germany, believes that the sanctions against Russia are undoubtedly the most affected by the Russian side, but the EU countries led by Germany will also pay the corresponding price.

  In response to the West's goal of withdrawing Russia's troops through sanctions, he pointed out that from historical experience, sanctions against a large country are unlikely to achieve the goal. "The sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 showed this." .

  A report from Germany's Allianz Group on the 24th also pointed out that compared with 2014, Russia is now economically in a position that is more able to withstand the consequences of sanctions.

In terms of energy, other than Russia, Europe has limited alternatives.

If the conflict between the two sides escalates and Russia completely cuts off its natural gas supply to Europe, a recession in the euro zone is almost a foregone conclusion.

  According to Gu Xuewu's analysis, the development of the current situation will lead to the deepening of Europe's dependence on the United States in energy supply and security policy.

Or force Germany and Europe to speed up the pace of energy transformation and self-reliance

  The impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on energy supply and macroeconomics is emerging day by day.

According to the "Financial Times" report, on the 24th, the price of crude oil exceeded $105 a barrel for the first time since 2014, while the price of natural gas in Europe soared by more than 30%.

Germany's ruling coalition has also approved a multi-billion-euro bailout package aimed at easing the burden of rising energy prices.

  However, according to Shi Shiwei, a visiting professor at the Free University of Berlin in Germany, the recently exposed problem of over-reliance on a single country for energy supply will prompt Germany and other EU countries to speed up the development of new energy sources and further diversify the sources of energy imports. .

  "But in general, geopolitical uncertainty will undoubtedly make Europe's already difficult economic recovery in the post-pandemic era more difficult," he said.