Merkel ‘under pressure’ to put Nord Stream 2 on hold says expert
But one former UK diplomat has said Boris Johnson can use the situation to strengthen ties with the US – by contrasting Germany’s insistence on pushing the controversial development through with Britain’s steadfast opposition. With the UK’s stocks of natural gas currently at just 29 percent of capacity, compared with 52 percent in 2019, the Russian President’s planned intervention could scarcely have come at a worse time, warned Professor Alan Riley, an expert on European energy at the Atlantic Council.
He told the Telegraph: “I hope somebody is paying attention. We hardly need a gas supply disaster on top of a delta disaster.”
Cold weather earlier in the spring, soaring demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia and an increase in EU carbon prices to €52 (£45) a ton have left Europe’s interlinked system chronically short of gas.
At the same time, Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned multinational energy corporation, is currently supplying minimal contractual volumes in a move that could push gas prices beyond $10 per million BTU – already at a 13-year high.
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President
US President Joe Biden
Prof Riley also warned Brussels it was faced with a stark choice – either force Mr Putin to back down, or risk a full-blown crisis in the winter.
He added: “The Kremlin is inadvertently triggering an existential threat to the EU.”
In Nord Stream 2: Understanding the Potential Consequences, a report published on the Atlantic Council’s website last month, Prof Riley added: “An operational Nord Stream 2 would inflict substantial damage on the EU and the CEE states.
Angela Merkel and Joe Biden at a joint press conference earlier this month
“The project would simultaneously undermine the political and supply security of the CEE states, as well as the supply security of Western European states, such as Germany, and would roll back the 20-year campaign to create a single European gas market.
“Nord Stream 2 is also wielded by Moscow as a wedge. It powerfully assists Russia in dividing and weakening the European Union, one of its long-term strategic aims: divide et impera.”
The situation with respect to Nord Stream 2 has been compounded by US President Joe Biden’s decision not to impose sanctions on companies involved in the project – reversing the position of predecessor Donald Trump.
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Lord David Frost, the Brexit Minister
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
Commenting on the situation, Adrian Hill, a former officer in the Royal Engineers who among other diplomatic posts worked as a member of the Channel Tunnel team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the COBRA Committee of the Cabinet Office, chose to look on the bright side.
He told Express.co.uk: “Thank God we’re out of the EU and don’t have to wait for two dozen countries to catch on and catch up.”
Referring to the UK’s Brexit minister, he also proposed a way in which the UK could use the crisis to its advantage – as well as taking a swipe at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Nordstream 2 will bring gas from Russia to Germany – missing out much of eastern Europe
He explained: “I think Frosty will have noted Joe’s crawling to Merkel.
“He’ll try to save face with us – we just have do what Frosty’s doing.
“‘But, Joe, we’re trying desperately over that Protocol but now you know how thick-skinned those Germans are – look how Merkel rejected your absolutely reasonable position on Nord Stream 2’.
Adrian Hill is a former UK diplomat
“For a smart diplomat, it’s an open goal.”
He added: “The whole pipeline runs against NATO’s resolve to be less dependent of Russia for energy.
“I don’t trust Merkel. Look at Germany when she became Chancellor and its state on her retirement.
“Defenceless, in hock for the whole Continent and relying on China as the main export market.”