The poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny has revived the dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Will the project turn into a ruined investment? Two places in West Pomerania are shaking.
The situation is somewhat reminiscent of the Asterix stories, in which the small Gallic village is faced with an overwhelming Roman power – Sassnitz on Rügen and Lubmin in the structurally and humane West Pomerania are in the middle of a conflict, the protagonists of which in some cases exert their influence thousands of miles away. want to do.
It has long been hot between Washington, Moscow, Brussels and Berlin because of Nord Stream 2, and now the question is whether the multi-billion dollar project will be a devastated investment.
Future of the billion dollar project unclear
First, a sanctions law was passed in the US targeting investors and companies involved in the gas pipeline. Now the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny has sparked debate and suddenly the German government is no longer so clearly behind the advanced project.
According to previous information from Nord Stream 2 AG, the US sanctions would have significant consequences. You would meet directly more than 120 companies from at least twelve European countries, including more than 40 German companies. They would prevent investments of around € 700 million to complete the pipeline and also undermine investments of around € 12 billion in legally approved, largely completed EU energy infrastructure.
Sanctions are looming for the ferry port in Sassnitz
“You cannot stand upright”, says the mayor of Sassnitz on Rügen, Frank Kracht (non-party). The 53-year-old’s location and the Sassnitz-Mukran ferry port were recently targeted by three US senators. In the port, the pipes for the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were encapsulated in concrete, stored and transported from there to the open sea to the laying vessels.
The Russian laying vessel Akademik Tscherski for the further construction of the Nord-Stream 2 pipeline is moored in the port of Sassnitz-Mukran. (Source: Christian Schroedter / Image Images)
Senators threatened the ferry terminal, where thousands of pipes are still stored, with severe sanctions for its role in the construction of the pipeline. “The Fährhafen Sassnitz GmbH will be destroyed”, Kracht interprets a corresponding letter. Economic and legal sanctions are threatened – including for employees. “For me that was the height of guts.” Because there is a risk that in the future companies will look for another Baltic Sea port to do their business.
Of the two strands of the pipeline – a total of 2,360 kilometers – more than 150 are still missing, which in the future will yield up to 59 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Many people in West Pomerania are demanding that the line be completed. Experts in Moscow now assume that the first gas – if at all – will not be pumped through the pipes until next year. Originally, the line should have been in operation a long time ago.
“Games reminiscent of the Cold War”
Besides Sassnitz, Lubmin, more than 20 kilometers east of Greifswald, plays a central role in logistics: the natural gas must arrive there and be distributed from there. The city, which is idyllically situated near the Jasmund National Park, suddenly saw itself as a plaything of world politics.
The State Secretary of Vorpommern of the state government of Schwerin, Patrick Dahlemann (32), also sees the positive effects of the pipeline. It was felt everywhere that the construction workers were there. However, Dahlemann is politically cautious: “The state government cannot participate in the games reminiscent of the Cold War scenario.”
Lubmin: The landing station for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on the Lubmin energy and technology site west of the industrial port has been operational since late 2019. (Source: Eibner / Image Images)
Much of the memory of the time when Germany was divided and the Soviet Union very close is still present in West Pomerania. This past determines the atmosphere, says Lubmin’s mayor Axel Vogt (CDU). “Many people are still close to Russia.” During the construction of the Lubmin nuclear power plant, which was put into operation in the 1970s, there were many Russian specialists in the region, whose children attended the same schools.
Navalny’s poisoning arouses suspicion
According to Vogt, people in Lubmin are also questioning the events surrounding the Nawalny poisoning, which has made calls for a construction freeze on Nord Stream 2 noisy. Perhaps the circle of suspects should be much wider, says Vogt.
The full-time lawyer also emphasizes that the pipeline has been constructed on the basis of international building permits. “If there are now calls to stop construction, I wonder what that has to do with the rule of law.” What about decommissioning in the event of a construction freeze, which would in turn cost billions? Who is responsible for the compensation due?
Vogt does not yet want to go into the economics of Nord Stream 2. However, he knows that the operating taxes of the old Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which was commissioned in November 2011, have ranged from 1 to 1.5 million euros on an annual basis. percent of total business tax income. The landing station for the gas from Nord Stream 2 has now been completed. “If Nord Stream 2 is not finished, we would have a major investment ruin,” said Vogt. That would not be a good advertisement for interested parties.