The end of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”?
After Angela Merkel met Joe Biden during her final US visit, the United States and Germany have simultaneously issued a joint statement “on support for Ukraine, European energy security and our climate goals.”
After an era of cold US-German relations during Trump’s “America First,” Biden is trying to restore friendly relations with the state that determines the political agenda in Europe. Biden needs to form a coalition of powerful states to oppose the strengthening of China, and to draw Germany to his side he is ready to give in to other issues. As we’ve seen, Merkel has a more cooperative approach to Beijing – Germany’s most important trading partner. That’s why Biden is ready to negotiate.
Even though leaders had many topics to discuss, to a large extent, their joint statement deals with new agreements between the US and Germany on the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline. Nord Stream-2 is the second pipeline laid on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. If completed, the pipeline system will let Russia completely stop the transit of natural gas through Ukraine.
Despite all the opposition of the Eastern European states to this project, the sanctions imposed by the United States – now Ukraine faced the fact: the pipeline will work no matter what, and even Biden confirmed it:
“My view on Nord Stream-2 has been known for some time. Good friends can disagree, but by the time I became president, it was 90 % completed, and imposing sanctions did not seem to make any sense,” he stated during a joint press conference alongside Merkel.
How exactly will Nord Stream-2 threaten Ukraine?
Firstly, Ukraine will lose transit fees. It’s about $1.5 bn a year. Russia is now paying for the use of the Ukrainian pipeline. Thus, according to a signed five-year contract between Moscow and Kyiv for gas transit to Europe, Russia will pay at least $7 bn for using the Ukrainian gas pipeline.
But the main threat to Ukraine is armed aggression. Having lost gas supplies through the Ukrainian GTS, Ukraine is losing a safeguard against full-scale Russian military aggression, as Moscow will no longer be afraid to destroy the gas infrastructure on which it previously depended. Because there is a backup plan – Nord Stream-2, thanks to which Europe “will stay warm.”
Western media have already reacted to the Biden-Merkel arrangements:
- “The deal with Germany is embarrassing in its weakness,” writes The Wall Street Journal. The author continues, “The US and Germany say they’ll ask Russia to keep paying Ukraine. Are they kidding?”
- On the pages of The Washington Post, Sen. Ted Cruz highlighted, “This is a generational geopolitical mistake that decades from now future Russian dictators will be reaping billions of dollars of benefits annually from.”
Ukraine lost the gas battle, but not the war
Despite all the risks posed by the agreement between the United States and Germany, Ukraine still received many safeguards. The US and Germany pledged to help extend Ukraine’s gas transit agreement with Russia for ten years and impose sanctions if Moscow pressures Kyiv. Berlin also promises technical assistance for Ukraine’s integration into the European electricity grid as well as $1 bn of investment in the Green Fund for Ukraine.
However, whether this removes all the political, military and energy threats posed by the pipeline is a rhetorical question.
On the eve of this decision, Politico published an article stating that the US urges Ukraine to stay quiet on the Russian pipeline, otherwise, it would negatively affect bilateral relations.
Ukraine has already disobeyed. Together with Poland (whose interests the US and Germany also did not consider), they stated that they would oppose the launch of Nord Stream-2 until solutions were developed to overcome the security crisis.
The Joint Statement by Ministers of Foreign Affairs reads as follows:
“Unfortunately, the hitherto proposals to cover the resulting security deficit cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by NS2. Ukraine and Poland will work together with their allies to oppose NS2 until solutions are developed to address the security crisis created by NS2.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister wrote on his Twitter that Ukraine is already officially initiating consultations with the European Commission and Germany on Nord Stream-2.
A long-awaited invitation to Washington
After the publication of the abovementioned article on Politico, Ukrainian society raised a massive wave of outrage. To calm it down, the US Presidential Administration hastily announced that it would expect Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Washington on August 30. We want to note that there was no information about the visit before the article appeared on Politico, and the topic was always put on hold. The US congressmen have already criticized the date proposed by Biden: at this time, the US Congress will be on vacation, and it will be difficult for them to meet with Zelenskyy.
In response to this hasty invitation, the President of Ukraine replied dryly that he expects “a substantial and productive meeting with Joe Biden.” They will most likely discuss the security threat Nord Stream-2 poses, peace in Donbas, and the return of Crimea.
The peak of populism and hypocrisy from Russia
Official Moscow has decided to shift responsibility for all its atrocities to Ukraine. They appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, accusing Ukraine of shelling its own territory, MH17 downing and blocking Crimea. Moreover, they accused Ukraine of refusing to provide legal assistance to the Russian investigation of these “crimes.”
In its ridiculous and propagandistic statement, Russia urges ECHR to oblige Ukraine to stop restricting the rights of national minorities, including free access to general and higher education in their native language and banning broadcasting of Russian-language television and radio channels.
The Russians used their favourite topic for propaganda – language. They do not tire of accusing Ukraine of “oppressing the Russian-speaking population” and even now demand that these people have access to general and higher education in their “native language.” We will once again state: the Constitution of Ukraine provide for one state language – Ukrainian. And teaching in Ukrainian is not “oppression” but the implementation of the primary law of Ukraine.
The Office of the President of Ukraine has already responded:
“The Russian leadership decided to use the ECHR instruments after it secured itself, at the constitutional level, the absolute opportunity not to implement any decision of the ECHR. That is, for Russia, the ECHR legally means nothing, however for propaganda – it’s everything.”
Victoria Dubiv is a project manager at TRUMAN, editor of KYIV NOT KIEV
Tetiana Gaiduk is Creative Services Director at TRUMAN, co-founder and co-host at KYIV NOT KIEV
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