kolmapäev, oktoober 31, 2007

No more twisting in the wind ...

Geopolitically, Estonia is an odd duck. It's officially one of the Baltic trio, but it also finds itself coordinating with its glazed-over Northern neighbors while continuing to talk about Belarus with the Lithuanians.

That's because its national interests also intersect with Sweden and Finland and a prime example of this common interest is in the plan of Germany and Russia to lay the Nord Stream pipeline connecting the vast gas reserves of "Russia" (also known as Turkmenistan) with "Europe" (also known as Germany).

This project generated a sense of inevitability when it was first announced and an even greater sense of inevitability when Gerhard Schroeder officially became involved in the project. But Schroeder's decision to join up with Gazprom raised questions about the legitimacy of the project itself which is saying that it will be built by 2010, no matter what, even if they have to buy the Baltic Sea.

Estonia recently rejected Gazprom's request to survey its sea bottom, seeing the request as tantamount to giving the Schroeder bunch the green light to lay pipe in Estonia's territorial waters. Estonia was originally portrayed as a stubborn little pimple on the backside of Europe, but it stuck to its guns and began lobbying other Baltic Sea countries to ask Gazprom to evaluate a continental pipe, similar to Yamal, which runs through Poland.

But it seems that others have decided that Estonia has a point. Or maybe Estonia was just the first part of a broader Baltic Sea strategy for dealing with Nord Stream. Either way, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren (above) said this week that Sweden is now taking a similar approach to Estonia's towards Nord Stream.

'In the information the company provided, it appears as if a more eastern laying would better avoid environmental problems and risks. It is now up to the company to show which other routes are possible from an environmental and risk point of view, and why it has chosen this particular route,' he added.

It is a good question as to why they would want to lay the pipe on the bottom of a sea rather than over land. Supposedly, it's those nasty Polish transit fees they are trying to avoid. Or maybe it's the threat from Polish environmentalists who could try to blow up the Nord Stream pipe should it go through the heart of the land of Kościuszko. Or maybe because they agreed to lay the pipe in the sea and ... it's just inevitable that they will do it, because Gerhard Schroeder is involved and he's a wealthy and powerful German guy.

Who knows? All we know is that Estonia is no longer standing alone in this debate and that Germany and Russia can no longer wave their fingers at the troublesome New Europeans for stalling their project. Sweden is now on board too. Everyone wants to know why they have to build it in the sea for more money and more possible damage to the environment, when they can just lay it over land for less.

12 kommentaari:

Alex ütles ...

Also, the opportunity exists for Russia to deploy its naval forces in the Baltic to "guard the welding of the pipes."

What a great way to put military ships off the coast of countries that don't see things your way. Think there is a statement in that?

Hmmm. Even Nordstream doesn't see the need for that according the the Helsingin Sanomat.

But I don't put much faith in the HS as they tend to tow the Finnish
line of pressing ones lips against Putins' asshole.

klx ütles ...

with just about every feature of the project against the national interest, i find hard to believe that a company could be so short sighted as to expect the government to allow them a survey.

but then i remember the entire project is a cynical exercise in non-transparent bilateralism, rather than something that's going to make a difference to european (not just germany's) gas supplies.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Right, it is neither a controversy Estonia v Russia only, nor Eesti vs. Nord Stream as consequence of the pipeline plans.

Here are some points made in a debate in Sweden:

'Därefter skenade debatten i väg på ett långt sidospår som gällde den planerade gasledningen från Ryssland till Tyskland. Olle Schmidt hänvisade till sina baltiska kolleger i EU-parlamentet och var starkt kritisk till gasledningen.'

Olle Schmidt agrees with the view of his baltic collegues in the EU-Parliament.

'Kristian Gerner ansåg att gasledningen är farlig därför att den ger Ryssland en bra förevändning att starkt utöka sin militära närvaro i Östersjön.

Gerner is concerned about the possible increase of military presence of Russia in the Baltic Sea.

'Thomas Hallberg undrade varför man inte lika gärna kan oroa sig för ökad tysk militär närvaro, men Olle Schmidt menade att Tyskland inte räknas eftersom det ingår i EU.'

And(!) Hallberg is concerned about the possible increase of german military presence in the Baltic Sea.

[Sweden is not member of NATO]

'Mest balanserat resonerade Vladislav Savić som påpekade att Östersjön fram tills ganska nyligen militärt dominerats av Warszawa-pakten, och nu förvandlats till ett Nato-hav.'

Savic is concerned about the swift of one military pact, once Warszawa pact, to another one: NATO, in the Baltic Sea.

'Han påpekade också att det är i Ryssland energitillgångarna finns, och det finns inte mycket man kan göra åt den saken.'

This debate was summarized by diVERse
The post called: Vem bryr sig om Ryssland ?,a discussion of the Publicistklubben in Malmö Teater on Monday.

plasma-jack ütles ...

And(!) Hallberg is concerned about the possible increase of german military presence in the Baltic Sea.

:-D The Swedish politicians are loonies, though admittedly loonies with principles. What on earth is that Hallberg-guy afraid of, a retaliatory attack by Holy Roman Empire?

stockholm slender ütles ...

Of course, you always have to rely on telepathy to discover the real attitude of official Finland to Russian policies. It won't be said aloud - but I would guess that they fervently hope that this project would get torpedoed, and are simultanously absolutely determined not to be seen openly torpedoing it. Not very principled, no, but the world seems to be working on pretty Macchiavellian lines anyway. Of which this shameless German solo gambit is a perfect example.

Juan Manuel ütles ...

One of the reasons why Russians (Russians in general, not just a few guys) are not richer is that they don't think in a way that makes economic sense. Back in the good old days of the Soviet Union they sold cheap oil to buy expensive sugar, they made stupid deals in foreign trade just to expand their "influence" and now they have been 15 years paying debts.

The only reason why the are laying a pipeline under the Baltic sea is to annoy their neighbors. Baltic countries will not be able to buy that gas, they will not get any transit fees and theoretically they could be left without gas in December while Putin and Angie go to the sauna in Berlin.

So they are investing in a project that is much more expensive than it should be just to annoy their neighbors. It would be great for the Russians themselves if other countries team up to prevent them from throwing their own money to the Baltic sea.

So? ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
So? ütles ...

No, building pipelines requiring the least number of countries possible makes perfect business sense. They did want to build another pipeline through Poland about 5-7 years ago. But then chest-thumping Polish politicians proclaimed they would not let their sovereignty be impinged with pipelines and fibreoptic "spy cables". Now they flip out over a new "Molotov-Ribbentrop pact". So who's acting irrationally?


Giustino ütles ...

I don't think it's just the irrational Poles, Andyk. It's all the Baltic Sea countries except Russia and Germany.

But an interesting point is raised. How will the Tusk government in Poland react to this? There are also elections in Denmark soon. The pipe will also be laid in Danish territorial waters. What will an emboldened Rasmussen say?

Juan Manuel ütles ...

And were do the Poles get there gas from, if not from gas pipelines that come all the way from Siberia to Frankfurt? (I am just asking, I don't know if there is another way for them to get their gas)

Juan Manuel ütles ...

But anyway, you are right that the West too does not act rationally in many ways - take the Kascinscky brothers. When the Estonian government, under pressure from the IRL members, said "no", I must admit that I disliked the decision, thinking it would be perceived as a clear prove that the Estonians did not have a pragmatic approach (after all, it was just a survey). But I think they have reasons to oppose the project.

John Menzies ütles ...

How is Bill Gates connected with this story, though, and what happened to his glasses? I'm referring to the photo on the original post.