Last week, we discussed the history-defining sabotage of the Nord Stream and its vast geopolitical implications for Europe.
This is the second installment of our two-part series about the Nord Stream conspiracy.
Here’s a quick recap to bring you up to speed:
- Swedish authorities concluded this attack was unquestionably carried out by a state actor
- Suspects range from Russian oligarchs to the US and even Poland. For Europe, Nord Stream has been one of the biggest drivers of political fragmentation, so pro-EU block members have a good motive to yank it.
- Putin blowing up his own pipes doesn’t seem to make sense, but it could have been the job of his disloyal oligarchs, who are starting to think about their “exit strategy” behind his back
- If there’s a regime change in Russia, Gazprom will be on the hook for hefty penalties for breaching contracts. Not anymore. The explosions triggered a “force majeure” clause, which gives Gazprom legal immunity from the penalties.
Knowing all of this, could the West have been responsible?
Let’s dive in.
Could the culprit be the U.S.?
You’ve probably seen this clip, which went viral immediately after the news broke:
President Biden said the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline won’t go forward if Russia invades Ukraine, amid rising tensions with the Kremlin, explains @jimwillhite #WSJWhatsNow https://t.co/AgjiZdNrrK pic.twitter.com/Qd1UjsGcwM
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) February 8, 2022
On February 7, 2022, Biden made a public address aimed at Putin. He threatened to “put an end” to Nord Steam 2 (Gazprom’s second pipeline finished last year but not yet operational) if Russia invaded Ukraine.
When asked by journalists how exactly he would do that, he bumbled, “I promise we’ll be able to do that.”
“US President Joe Biden on Monday warned that if Russia invades Ukraine, there would be no Nord Stream 2, but did not specify how he would go about ensuring the controversial pipeline would not be used.
Speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Biden said, “If Russia invades… again, then there will be longer Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”
When asked how he would do that, he responded, “I promise you we will be able to do it.”
So it should come as no surprise that many are now pointing fingers at the Pentagon.
Of course, the viral clip could have been taken out of context.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean Biden didn’t get his hands dirty.
The US has harshly opposed Nord Stream from the get-go. And it has pressured Germany to kill Nord Stream 2 because it goes at odds with Washington’s interests.
But these interests aren’t just about replacing Russian gas with US LNG exports. Its motives lie in a century-long geopolitical strategy.
The US has been at the apex of global power for most of the past century. It has the world’s most powerful army. It’s still the only global naval superpower. And with its NATO allies, it holds Russia and China up against a wall.
So, the Pentagon has just one geopolitical objective: to defend NATO’s military hegemony. And it maintains this status quo by engineering a global balance of power at all costs.
From a column by George Friedman who is one of the world’s most renowned geopolitics experts:
“The World Wars cemented control of the seas as the single most important element of American strategy. The vital corollary that followed was that the US must maintain a balance of power, particularly in Europe and Asia, to prevent the construction of navies.
During the Cold War, the United States developed a strategy of containment. The Soviet Union would be surrounded on as many fronts as possible by American allies, backed by American power.
This was meant to prevent Soviet expansion into Europe and threaten the Soviets with the possibility of an attack along its entire periphery.
After the Soviet Union fell, the United States had no strategic challenger. Its new fear was that such a challenger would emerge—this time from minor regional hegemons growing into major ones.
The automatic response to any potential hegemonic power, therefore, was to attempt to co-opt, destabilize, or destroy it before it could threaten the United States.”
America’s “balance of power’ strategy is the reason it’s been involved in so many conflicts but hasn’t won most of them. Its end goal hasn’t been to win the war, it’s been to make a mess and leave.
In this way, it has managed to preempt the emergence of new superpowers and alliances that could challenge the US in the future.
This is where Nord Stream comes into the picture.
For Russia, cheap gas wasn’t just an economic tool. It was also a way to make friends in Europe.
And it worked.
Germany and a few other Eastern EU members took the bait and got hooked—which Trump warned against back in 2017.
The Pentagon took this hook-up between Russia and Germany—the strongest NATO ally—as a major threat. If Europe destabilized, a new Russian-led alliance might emerge that could counterweight NATO.
And Nord Stream 2 would have substantially increased the risk that Germany would side with Russia.
But now, without Nord Stream, Germany is forced to wean itself off cheap Russian gas—maybe for good.
Coincidence or not, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a celebratory press conference right after the attacks, spinning this terror act as a “tremendous opportunity” for the West.
“Ultimately, this is also a tremendous opportunity. It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs,” he said.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean Washington ordered the hit.
But there’s no question the US has a lot more to gain from it than Russia does — both from a geopolitical and economic standpoint.
The other suspect on the West side is the coalition of Ukraine and its most powerful EU supporter, Poland. Both have opposed Nord Steam 2 and lobbied the EU to shun Russian gas altogether.
From Ukraine’s point of view, the problem with Russian gas is straightforward. It fears that if Europe has to choose between cheap Russian gas or peace in Ukraine, it may choose, well, cheap gas.
If that happens, Europe will probably split up and lose a counterweight against Russia.
This fear isn’t illusory.
Germany, the de-facto EU leader and the biggest NATO member in Europe, heavily depends on Russian gas. It’s so addicted to cheap gas that it agreed to build another pipeline, Nord Stream 2, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
This only shows that Germany is ready to put its economic interests before Eastern European quarrels.
Much to Ukraine’s fears, many EU members began to echo this view after energy prices exploded this year. As I wrote in, “Putin’s Big Bet: The Collapse of the European Union,” there’s a major anti-EU movement in its biggest economies:
“In a snap election last week, Italy put in power a fierce anti-EU coalition led by Giorgia Meloni. And with her close ultranationalist friends, she holds a majority in both houses of Italy’s parliament.
In other words, a founding member of the EU and its third-largest economy is now run by the very people who want to dismantle it.”
Italy is followed by Hungary, all Nordic EU members, and potentially, very soon, France.
Meanwhile, Poland’s pet peeve with Russian gas is both geopolitical and economic.
After Crimea’s annexation, Poland initiated a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline called the Baltic Pipe. It can pump millions of cubic meters of gas from Norway to Poland and neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
The idea of the Baltic Pipe’ began nearly a decade ago, in 2013, and its construction finally began in 2020.
Now get this: it was finally completed just a few weeks ago, on September 27.
Could the inauguration of the Baltic Pipe coinciding with the sabotage of Nord Stream – the very gas pipeline it’s meant to replace – merely be a coincidence?
This is a clear economic win for Poland’s economy.
The Baltic Pipe cost $1.6 billion, most of which was financed by Denmark and Polish gas transmission company GAZ-SYSTEM. The energy giant is 100% owned and controlled by the Polish state.
If the rest of Europe abstains from Russian gas, Poland will have a chance to fill the gas void in those countries. In fact, back in 2020, it offered to do that for Germany if it halted the construction of Nord Stream 2.
The other reason is more nuanced yet critical from Germany’s geopolitical perspective.
If Nord Stream stays, Europe’s geopolitical unity will break into two poles. Poland and its neighboring countries will get gas from Norway and have no interest in Russia, while Germany will try to keep cheap Russian gas.
This divergence in interests could lead to Germany’s standoff in the EU and even NATO. If you think that’s farfetched, consider why Germany was one of the last NATO countries to send arms to Ukraine.
Poland wants to preempt that.
And what better way to do that than by putting the saboteur in a position where it has no choice?
We’ll never truly know who sabotaged the pipelines, nor does anybody else except those who did it.
So we can assume at best.
But the reality is that the West has the most to gain from the demise of Nord Stream. You’d have to be an idiot to blow up the pipe you spent a decade building when you could simply close the valve – and Putin is no idiot*.
(*Unless, as we discussed last time, it’s the Russian oligarchs’ exit strategy in preparation for a regime change.)
What does this all mean for most of us in North America?
The end of the Nord Streams mean there’s no longer an easy solution to the war. Europe, especially Germany, now has less interest in giving in to Russia.
Furthermore, the US will continue to ship more gas over to Europe, just as Biden promised – which only creates a bigger supply and demand gap at home.
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, the White House ruled out any ban on natural gas exports this winter.
This only means higher prices for US citizens.
To make matters worse, recall last year that Biden made sweeping changes to the American oil and gas policy, which even involved the SEC.
“President Joe Biden promised to “end” the use of oil and natural gas in the United States during his campaign, and also talked about mounting a “whole of government” approach to achieving that goal. Since taking office, he has worked to follow through on those promises, cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, repeatedly suspending the federal oil and gas leasing program and even attempting to place a climate activist, Sarah Bloom Raskin, on the board of the Federal Reserve.
On Monday, Biden’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) got into the act, issuing a new proposed regulation mandating climate-related disclosures, a vast expansion of its regulatory authority that some believe exceed its’ purview. “Today’s action hijacks the democratic process and disrespects the limited scope of authority that Congress gave to the SEC,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) was quoted as saying. “This is a thinly veiled effort to have unelected financial regulators set climate and energy policy for America.”
In other words, without government intervention, sky-high energy prices are here to stay.
We have repeatedly beat the drum that higher prices are coming across the board.
Have you seen September’s lastest CPI?
Core inflation (CPI stripped of energy and food) rose at the fastest pace in 40 years. It’s exactly as we said it would happen: the cost of energy is feeding inflation downstream through the rest of the economy.
And because inflation always lags behind energy shocks, it’s nowhere near the end.
Keep diversifying into real assets and energy companies.
Seek the truth and be prepared,