Trump and the Russia Pipeline

Wall Street Journal | Editorial Board | July 11, 2018

President Trump is so prone to rhetorical excess that he sometimes hurts his own case even when he’s right. A case in point is his shellacking of Germany Wednesday for supporting a new Russian gas pipeline.

“Well, I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Mr. Trump said during a breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“And the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that’s supplying the gas. . . . So you tell me, is that appropriate? [B]ecause I think it’s not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO and I don’t think it should have happened. And I think we have to talk to Germany about it.”

While he then went over the top in saying “Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Mr. Trump’s rant is an accurate summary of Berlin’s role in the Nord Stream 2 project. The pipeline would link Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea, doubling the capacity of the existing pipeline in that corridor, and bypassing other pipelines through Ukraine and central and eastern Europe.

The Kremlin hopes to increase the dependence of Germany and Western Europe on Russian gas while depriving Ukraine and other inconvenient states of the transit fees Russia must pay to use current pipelines. Moscow could then also shut off the gas at will to states Russia still considers its satellites.

The embarrassment for Berlin and NATO is that Germany is happy to help Vladimir Putin execute this plan. Usually hostages need to be taken instead of volunteering. Yet Gerhard Schröder, the former Chancellor Mr. Trump mentioned, is cashing in on his lobbying prowess to ease the project through Berlin as chairman of the Nord Stream 2 consortium and chairman of Russian energy giant Rosneft.

Full op-ed here