The German Chancellor is set to end her 16-year reign this summer, following a tough last year tackling the country’s deadly Covid pandemic. But Andreas Kluth, warned her remaining months may be marred by a fresh crisis over her recent support for a Russian gas link. The author added Germany’s relationship with the US may also be at risk despite Mrs Merkel’s trip to Washington this week to meet President Joe Biden.
Nord Stream 2, which runs on the bed of the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, has faced criticism from the US, which says it will increase European reliance on Russian gas.
Writing for Bloomberg, Mr Kluth said: “By doggedly backing a Russian gas link, Angela Merkel has let down the US and Europe — and left her successor only bad options.
“The geopolitical threat posed by Nord Stream 2 seems blatant enough for Poland, the Baltic republics, France, the European Union and other allies, who all oppose the pipeline alongside the US.
“Nonetheless, the Germans keep burying their heads in the sand like geo-strategic ostriches. Implausibly, Merkel intones that the project is a purely commercial undertaking best left to the private sector.
“In a last-ditch effort to stop the link’s completion, the US Congress has initiated sanctions against vessels laying the pipes, and in May wanted even tougher measures, including steps targeting a boss of Nord Stream 2 AG who is a German citizen.
“Biden, however, waived these sanctions, hoping not to jeopardise the wider US-German relationship and giving negotiations more time. But Congress will demand sanctions again in August, when Biden has to show his hand.
“That’s making the Germans nervous, just as they enter the hot phase before their parliamentary election in September, which will produce a new government within months.
“The onus is now on lame-duck Merkel — this week, while in Washington — to offer the Americans some ideas for solving the geopolitical mess she’s caused.
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In past rows with Russia, Ukraine has seen its gas supply cut off a number of times.
Mrs Merkel faced pressure from the US and the EU to cut ties with the pipeline following the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, but she remained committed to the project.
Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine and analyst with the Brookings Institution, commented on this decision by saying: “One gets the sense that Berlin’s enthusiasm for the pipeline has sharply waned, but no one in authority is prepared to halt it.”
Mr Kluth added Mrs Merkel is making herself look bad by not making it clear there will be consequences if Putin cuts off Ukraine.
He said: “One option is for Germany to make clear that it would turn off the gas coming through Nord Stream 2 if ever Putin does cut out Ukraine.
“But that sounds implausible. Putin would turn off the Ukrainian taps in winter when western Europe is most dependent on Russia’s gas and can’t afford to throttle Nord Stream 2.
“And anyway, what’s the logic of building a pipeline to supplement existing ones only to pretend you could shut them all off at once? Another option is to fortify Ukraine by helping it develop new revenue sources and energy infrastructure.
“That’s a good idea even in the absence of Nord Stream 2. But it won’t save Ukraine from Russian blackmail and aggression. And it does nothing to comfort all the other countries in the region worried about being threatened.”