Sunday 18 August 2019

Dispute over Nord Stream 2 pipeline spreads to the Netherlands

Graphic: Depositphotos.com

The dispute over a new pipeline bringing Russian gas to Europe has spilled over into the Netherlands with a tit for tat spat between the Russian and US ambassadors in a Dutch newspaper.

On Tuesday, Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands accused the United States of ‘promoting its own energy sources for the European market by slandering competitors’ in a letter to the biggest Dutch daily, the Telegraaf.

The ambassador’s response comes in the wake of an earlier letter from American ambassador Pete Hoekstra in which he urges the Dutch government to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipe project.

Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture betwee Gazprom and five European gas companies, among which Dutch-English Shell. Dutch firms Van Oord and Boskalis are involved in the construction project.

The 1,200 kilometre pipeline will transport 55 billion cubic metres of Russian gas from the Jamal peninsula to Germany per year and, according to the Gazprom website, is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Echoing comments by president Donald Trump and the US ambassador to Germany, Hoekstra warned in his letter that the new pipeline will ‘provide Russia with a powerful new capability to control, influence and potentially undermine the West.’

Hoekstra also argued that the project, which bypasses Ukraine, will endanger the safety of that country by removing ‘any motivation for Russia to engage good faith negotiations in regards to Ukraine’.

The pipeline will deprive Ukraine of the money it currently earns from gas transit fees and is also opposed by most of central and eastern Europe.

Ukraine

Russian ambassador Alexander Shulgin says in his letter Russia will still use the Ukraine route for gas transports to Europe ‘if it is viable and safe, taking into account the state of the infrastructure’.

He also points out that Russian gas will be on average 30% cheaper than American LNG, while the shorter new pipeline will make gas cheaper and cleaner.

The US is known to be keen to step up the import of its LNG into Europe.

The ambassador ends on a swipe to Hoekstra who is ‘taking on a misguided messiah role to tell others what to do’ while Russia, he said, ‘respects other countries’. ‘The Netherlands must decide for itself what is better for the country – cheap Russian gas or expensive American gas’, Shulgin said.

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