On Wednesday evening, Berlin and Washington revealed the results of the last few months of bilateral negotiations on Nord Stream 2. Drawn up as a joint statement, the document turned out rather long, at first glance giving an impression that Germany had to cede ground dramatically, as there are too many obligations assumed by the Germans in exchange for a US waiver of claims to the gas pipeline.
However, this impression is deceptive. Calling the result of negotiations "Merkel's triumph", as Spiegel magazine hastened to write within a couple of hours after the statement release, might have been an exaggeration, but Berlin did definitely win. First of all, Germany managed to achieve the main thing – it solved the key issue that has been damaging transatlantic relations over the past couple of years, for its own benefit. Moreover, this decision may also serve a weighty argument against Kiev, Warsaw and other gas pipeline opponents on the near side of the Atlantic. If Washington does not mind now, what other objections can there be?
As for commitments by Berlin, the principal ones relate to renewable energy, an issue Germany does already have keen interest in. Moreover, the Germans, particularly their former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, have long suggested that the Americans, instead of arguing about Nord Stream 2, get engaged in developing joint hydrogen projects, for instance.
Pursuant to the statement released, Berlin has pledged to promote renewable energy in Ukraine and countries of Central and Eastern Europe, in association with Washington. That is, to do what it would have done in any case, since Germany's interests related to the new energy sector include all the regions adjacent to the European Union. And now Berlin will also get American help here, which may be quite useful. Specifically, to attract investment in the "green fund" that Germany is also obliged to create under the agreement to support energy transition and energy security of Ukraine.
The same holds for Germany's commitments to expand energy cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative. German experts from the Science and Politics Foundation (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) have long recommended that the German government step up its engagement in the initiative, pointing out that the region between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas is predetermined for producing "green" gases and hydrogen. As such, they also highlighted the hydrogen potential of Ukraine, advising to integrate it as much as possible into the EU energy market and use Ukrainian opportunities within European "green" energy. Actually, it is safe to say that Berlin undertook to promote its own interests in the course of negotiations with Washington.
Germany, however, promised to take measures aimed at restricting the import of Russian energy carriers to the EU if Moscow tries to get those weaponized or acts aggressively towards Ukraine. But in this case, just as if faced with a promise to start negotiations with Moscow on extending the validity of Ukrainian transit, the text's wording is much softer. Which is reasonable, as Berlin cannot provide any assurance here, since the result does not depend on it alone. Basically, if these promises are not fulfilled for some reason, the Germans may well declare they have done their utmost. Besides, it is still highly questionable whether Russia is really going to use gas as a weapon and show aggression against Ukraine, as the United States fears.
However, Berlin will probably have to pay for its victory in negotiations with the Americans. The latter need Germany as a key ally in its unfolding confrontation with China. That’s what accounts for the relative softness of Washington's current stance on Nord Stream 2. But its demands on the Germans along the "Chinese" track may prove much tougher.