Nord Stream 2: Is Germany ‘Captive’ to Russian Energy?

President Trump has targeted Germany over its supposed dependence on Russian natural gas and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

President Trump [ruffled German feathers](https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/11/politics/trump-germany-russia-captive-nato/index.html "ruffled German feathers") this summer, saying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally was totally controlled by Russia. Chancellor Angela Merkel was [less than pleased](https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/11/nato-summit-donald-trump-says-germany-is-captive-of-russians "less than pleased"). What did Trump mean, and what does it portend for European geopolitics?

Whats the situation?

Trumps complaint centers on the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipeline, which, when completed, will carry Russian natural gas hundreds of miles across the Baltic Sea to Germany. The project, which is led by the Russian state energy giant Gazprom, was approved by the German government in March, part of its commitment to wean the country off nuclear and coal power.

Trumps strong rhetoric aside, Germany is highly dependent on Russian gas: it currently gets about 40 percent of its supply from Russia. That makes Germany the EUs [largest consumer of natural gas](https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-03/german-addiction-to-russia-gas-raises-alarm-in-merkel-s-backyard "largest consumer of natural gas"). The NS2, which follows the same route as the Nord Stream 1, a pipeline completed in 2011, could potentially double the flow of Russian gas into Germany.

The European Union (EU), as a whole, relies on natural gas [for nearly a quarter](https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/russian-gas "for nearly a quarter") of its energy, and Russia currently provides more than a third of that. However, some EU countries are much more dependent on Russian gas than others, with many countries in Eastern Europe getting two-thirds or more of their gas supplies that way. Meanwhile, some Western European countries, such as Spain and Portugal, dont get any gas from Russia.

So whats the problem?

The European Union (EU), as a whole, relies on natural gas [for nearly a quarter](https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/russian-gas "for nearly a quarter") of its energy, and Russia currently provides more than a third of that. However, some EU countries are much more dependent on Russian gas than others, with many countries in Eastern Europe getting two-thirds or more of their gas supplies that way. Meanwhile, some Western European countries, such as Spain and Portugal, dont get any gas from Russia.

So whats the problem?

Washington warns that the NS2 will undermine Western sanctions against Russia, which were put in place after its 2014 annexation of Crimea, and give Moscow more geopolitical leverage. Russia has [previously cut off gas](https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29521564 "previously cut off gas") to Ukraine and Eastern Europeduring the freezing midwinterin the course of disputes.

Trumps criticisms are more blunt than his predecessors, but they are not newthe Obama administration, too, opposed the pipeline. Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Eastern European [countries such as Poland](https://www.rferl.org/a/polish-pm-calls-nord-stream-2-weapon-of-hybrid-warfare/29255392.html "countries such as Poland") are also opposed, fearing that the project could allow Russia to [bypass existing pipelines](https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/11/germany-and-russia-gas-links-trump-questions-europe-nord-stream2 "bypass existing pipelines") through their territory, crippling their energy supply and depriving them of lucrative transit fees.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators [echoed these concerns](https://www.barrasso.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/6497222b-604f-49e1-9bec-967f8660371f/3-15-18-senate-nordstream-ltr.pdf "echoed these concerns") in March, writing that by circumventing Ukraine, Nord Stream II will remove one of the biggest reasons for Russia to avoid large-scale conflict in Eastern Ukraineas the Kremlin is well aware.

Germany makes [several rebuttals](https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-03/german-addiction-to-russia-gas-raises-alarm-in-merkel-s-backyard "several rebuttals"). First, that the NS2 is simply the most cost-effective option for meeting the continents growing energy needs: the pipeline will be much cheaper than overland deliveries from Eastern Europe. Second, that U.S. opposition is driven mostly by Washingtons desire to sell more American liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European markets. Others note that the first Nord Stream project has not stopped Germany from taking a hard line against Russias expansionism.

Whats next?

The pipeline was originally set to be completed by the end of 2019. That now looks to be delayed, as Denmark, one of the five nations whose waters the pipeline crosses, is [still weighing its approval](https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/all-eyes-on-denmark-after-sweden-awards-nord-stream-2-permit/ "still weighing its approval") over environmental and security concerns. Even if Denmark ultimately withholds its support, the line could likely be rerouted to avoid its territory.

The U.S. response remains to be seen. Trump has already shown his willingness to levy tariffs on U.S. allies in the EU, and his administration [has threatened sanctions](https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-17/u-s-warns-sanctions-possible-if-nord-stream-2-pipe-proceeds "has threatened sanctions")against European businesses if the NS2 goes through. Trump also floated [reopening talks](https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-presses-germany-to-drop-russian-pipeline-for-trade-deal-1526566415 "reopening talks") on a U.S.-EU trade deal if Germany dropped the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Trump [has pledged his support](https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/06/trump-stumbles-into-europes-pipeline-politics-putin-europe-poland-liquified-natural-gas-three-seas-initiative/ "has pledged his support") to the Three Seas Initiative, a grouping of Central and Eastern European countries, led by Poland, that seek energy independence from Russia. The first shipment of U.S. LNG arrived in Poland last year, and new terminals [are being planned](https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-us-lng/trump-bets-on-new-european-lng-terminals-but-eu-funds-meager-idUSKBN1KL33S "are being planned") across the Mediterranean.

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