In Germany, the weeks preceding Christmas celebrations seem not as serene as usual this year. However, ordinary burghers are traditionally busy buying gifts for their families and discussing whether Christmas and New Year are going to be snowy or not. Meanwhile, the political elite and the German media are concerned about yet another scandal. Sobs about the Berlin murder of a Chechen militant of Georgian origin, with an alleged involvement of Russian security services, and insights into the legitimacy of a subsequent expulsion of two Russian diplomats from the country, died away quickly enough. Almost before Russia quite predictably returned the favor, sending two employees of the German Embassy in Moscow back to their homeland.
Ahead of Christmas, the strongest irritation with the German political elite was caused by the United States' intention to impose sanctions against European (and German, in particular) firms engaged in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic sea. This is a real international scandal, not third-rate gang issues. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has sharply condemned US plans: "We fundamentally reject outside intervention and sanctions with extraterritorial effect. European energy policy must be decided in Europe, not the US." Less diplomatic was the statement by his party colleague Carsten Schneider, one of the SPD parliamentary faction leaders, who accused the Americans of ultimately returning to the Wild West era, where the right of the powerful was the only efficient one.
If sanctions are now imposed even against allies, we are facing hard times, Schneider said. True is the Russian proverb "With friends like that who needs enemies." Anyway, the German MP seems to be thinking in this very direction: people acting this way will soon lose all of their allies, the politician said. At the same time, he stressed Europe would not tolerate any blackmailing by the United States to buy "dirty American liquefied gas." He was echoed by head of the Eastern Committee of German Economy Michael Harms, who said that the planned US sanctions are a fatal signal for the entire transatlantic cooperation, as failing to contribute to the energy security of Europe. In an interview with Reuters, Herr Harms pointed out that the Nord Stream 2 project was approved by all the EU standards and that the pipeline through which Russian gas will come to Europe lies within the competence of the European Union, not the US Congress. At the same time, Michael Harms demanded that Europe provide a robust response to this interference in its sovereignty.
By the way, the head of the Eastern Committee of German Economy objected in this regard to the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce representing the interests of German companies having business in Russia, which has already proposed retaliatory sanctions against the United States. Michael Harms referred to this move as "counterproductive" and warned against whipping up a spiral of mutual sanctions. He believes that the conflict with the United States should be resolved diplomatically. However, Herr Harms snatched an opportunity to object to the United States which constantly claims that natural gas supplies from Russia allegedly threaten the sovereignty of Europe and make it dependent on Moscow. These arguments are not true, with Russia having been a very reliable gas supplier at a favorable (European) price for almost 50 years, and the EU has long had other gas suppliers as well, Michael Harms said, adding that it can, among other things, buy liquefied gas from the United States.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer of OMV Rainer Seele, who is also involved in the Nord Stream project, fully supports the idea of retaliatory sanctions against the "friends" overseas. He called their plans a blow to Europe, urging Berlin and Brussels to finally take a clear political stance, because the energy security of Europe is at stake now, and the Nord Stream 2 is going to strengthen it in view of more favorable natural gas prices as compared to the cost of American liquefied gas, Mr. Seele said.
By the way, according to Michael Harms, Russia is generally more dependent on the EU than the EU on Russia, referring to its currency earnings. However, the head of the Eastern Committee of German Economy recalled that in the coming decades Europe will need more natural gas to replace coal and nuclear energy, as well as to meet commitments on reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere.