by Bernhard, editor of Moon of Alabama
WITH SELECT COMMENTARY
Glenn Greenwald writes that President Trump acted more hostile to Russia than President Biden does, even while the media claimed that Trump was 'a Russian agent'. It is probably a fair point to make but in his piece Greenwald himself falls for anti-Russian propaganda nonsense.
The problem starts with the headline:
Biden, Reversing Trump, Permits a Key Putin Goal: a New Russian Natural Gas Pipeline to Germany
That Trump was controlled by Putin and served his agenda was the opposite of reality. First Obama, and now Biden, have accommodated Moscow far more.
Greenwald seems to presume that it is the right or the job of a U.S. president to 'permit' pipelines between two foreign countries? That is of course completely false. The U.S. has no right, duty or whatever to interfere in the regular business between foreign partners. Such interference is in fact illegal under international law. Biden, as well as Trump, should be criticized for even thinking about 'permitting' it.
On to Greenwald's main point:
When it came to actual vital Russian interests — as opposed to the symbolic gestures hyped by the liberal cable and op-ed page circus — Trump and his administration were confronting and undermining the Kremlin in ways Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had, to his credit, steadfastly refused to do.
Indeed, the foreign policy trait relentlessly attributed to Trump in support of the media’s Cold War conspiracy theory — namely, an aversion to confronting Putin — was, in reality, an overarching and explicit belief of President Obama’s foreign policy, not President Trump’s.
Obama waged a massive undercover war to overthrow the Syrian government, an old Russian ally. He arranged a fascist coup in the Ukraine and he sent the anti-Russian academic Michael McFaul as ambassador to Russia where McFaul immediately started to prepare a color revolution against President Putin. It was the Obama administration which launched the 'Russiagate' campaign against Trump which further infested U.S. policies with anti-Russian sentiment.
Seen from the Russian side Obama certainly showed absolutely no 'aversion to confronting Putin'.
While Trump ripped up arms treaties with Russia and gave a few useless weapons to the Ukraine, making sure they would not reach the front lines, he otherwise took, thankfully, few other damaging steps.
Now on to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline of which Greenwald writes:
Trump found one thing even more threatening to the Kremlin’s vital interests than arming Ukrainians: namely, doing everything possible to destroy Russia’s ability to complete construction of its new underwater natural gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2. That new pipeline is designed to double Russian sales capacity to an EU addicted to cheap Russian natural gas, producing massive revenue for the Russian economy and giving Moscow greater leverage when dealing with its European neighbors. But it provides an even more important benefit: it allows Russia to bypass Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, thus avoiding costly transit fees and the risks of political instability or anti-Russian manipulation by outside forces, including the U.S. government.
For all those reasons, few priorities were more important to Putin and the Russian economy than this new pipeline. Yet for at least the last two years of his presidency, Trump — even as he was shrilly depicted as an agent of the Kremlin — was obsessed with stopping the Russian pipeline and thus sabotaging Putin’s key geopolitical project.
This is a complete misunderstanding of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It is not Russia which needs the pipeline. It can sell its gas to China for just as much as it makes by selling gas to Europe.
The new pipeline will not 'double Russian sales capacity' to Europe. In March Russia sold a record 53 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe. The capacity of Nord Stream 2 is 55 billion cubic meters per year(!) (1.9 trillion cu ft/a) equal to 8.3 cubic meters per month. In theory the new pipeline will increase Russia's total sales capacity to Europe by some 15%, not by 100%. But in reality the new pipeline will likely replace existing pipelines which are running through the Ukraine.
It is Germany, the EU's economic powerhouse, that needs the pipeline and the gas flowing through it. Thanks to Chancellor Merkel's misguided energy policy - she put an end to nuclear power in Germany after a tsunami in Japan destroyed three badly placed reactors - Germany urgently needs the gas to keep its already high electricity prices from rising further.
That the new pipeline will bypass old ones which run through the Ukraine is likewise to the benefit of Germany, not Russia. The pipeline infrastructure in the Ukraine is old and near disrepair. The Ukraine has no money to renew it. Politically it is under U.S. influence. It could use its control over the energy flow to the EU for blackmail. (It already tried once.) The new pipeline, laid at the bottom of the Baltic sea, requires no payment for crossing Ukrainian land and is safe from potential malign influence.
That a Putin-controlled Russian asset would send lethal arms to Ukraine and do everything possible to sabotage Nord Stream 2 is so blatantly absurd that it could be ratified only by a media aggressively committed to spreading disinformation and lies.
All of this became even clearer on Tuesday when President Biden reversed Trump’s blockage of the Russian natural gas pipeline. Axios' Jonathan Swan reported that “the Biden administration will waive sanctions on the corporate entity and CEO overseeing the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline into Germany,” which “indicates the Biden administration is not willing to compromise its relationship with Germany over this pipeline.” Swan wrote what is clearly true: “the completion of Nord Stream 2 would be a huge geopolitical win for Putin and give him substantial new leverage in Europe.”
This “huge geopolitical win for Putin” is exactly what the Kremlin’s alleged asset in the White House spent years preventing and which Biden is now handing over.
Here Greenwald fails for Axios' view which is again mere anti-Russian propaganda. Nord Stream 1 and 2 are not 'Russia's pipeline'. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline is owned by five companies:
Nord Stream is a joint project involving five major companies: Gazprom international projects LLC (PJSC Gazprom subsidiary), Wintershall Dea GmbH, PEG Infrastruktur AG (PEGI/E.ON subsidiary), N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie and ENGIE.
The Nord Stream companies are international consortia of suppliers and buyers/distributors of natural gas. While Gasprom is a Russian company Wintershall is German, PEG is German and British owned, Gasunie is Dutch and Engie is French. The CEO of Nord Stream 1 is a Russian citizen.
To become sanction proved the Nord Stream 2 pipeline company was structured differently. While Russia's Gasprom is listed as the sole shareholder, the Dutch ENGIE, Austrian OMV, Dutch/British Shell and the German companies UNIPER and Wintershall DEA are listed as 'financial investors'. The CEO or Nord Stream 2 is Matthias Warnig, a German citizen.
To call either Nord Stream pipeline 'Russian' is like calling the International Space Station European.
While the Biden administration intends to maintain some of those Trump-imposed sanctions, the waivers they intend to issue will allow completion of Nord Stream 2, a gigantic gift to Putin.
No, the waiver it is not a gigantic gift to Putin. Germany needs the pipeline, Russia does not. The pipeline will be finished with or without sanctions. But imposing more sanctions would have had sever consequences for U.S. standing in Germany. The German people are already quite wary of U.S. influence. Increasing their heating and electricity bills by waging illegal sanctions against a German energy deal with Russia would have discredited it even more. Trump didn't care about that, Biden does.
Andrei Martyanow gets it:
This is not a charity move on Biden's side. Not at all, nor is it along the lines of reduction of tensions between the US and Russia Biden's people so love to talk about as of lately. Much of this decision is driven by Germany's sudden allocation of at least rudimentary spine and making sure that the US gets the message that it is risking a lot if it succeeds in sabotaging NS2 and that, as you may have guessed it already, plays into the Russian hands yet again because of major political repercussions in Germany even if the Bundestag gets much "greener", because at stake is an issue of Germany remaining the first world nation and EU's largest economy.
It is Germany, not Russia, which needs the pipeline. Germany's economy and energy security depend on it. That is why the pipeline would have been finished even under U.S. sanctions. Biden has stopped imposing more of those sanctions not as a favor to Russia but because the U.S. wants to keep political support from Germany.
Posted by b on May 20, 2021 at 16:14 UTC | Permalink
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