Scholz’s statement might be good news for Ukraine who fears that Russia will stop its gas transit through Ukraine after finishing Nord Stream 2.
The Social Democratic Party received the most votes in the German election, and its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz will now try to form a government. On Monday, he was asked about Nord Stream 2, and he mentioned Ukraine in that regard.
“Now, everyone should ensure that the guarantees associated with this project are accepted by everyone. The guarantees include that Ukraine remains a transit country and that we make sure that the gas supplies to some Eastern European countries, for example, are not jeopardized by Russia if it says that it no longer wants to serve this structure. We take this absolutely seriously and will be committed to it,” Scholz said, according to Ukrinform.
The statement might be good news for Ukraine as the country fears what will happen with gas transit through Ukraine after Russia finished Nord Stream 2. Lots of Russian gas are transported through Ukraine every year, but the completion of Nord Stream 2 offers Russia an alternative to the Ukrainian transit. Germany also previously promised to help Ukraine after the completion of Nord Stream 2, but the Ukrainian politicians are not convinced.
In the interview, Scholz also said that his priority is to strengthen the EU and further integration into the EU is possible if countries fulfill the requirements.
Should not expect miracles
The statements from Scholz might be good news in Ukraine. However, Ukraine shouldn’t think that the new chancellor will bring many changes, said Andreas Umland, an expert at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future think tank, to Kyiv Post.
“I don’t expect drastic changes because these centrist parties don’t differ that much on questions of foreign policy,” he told Kyiv Post.
Umland added that it could make a difference if Annalena Baerbock, leader of the Green Party, would be become part of Scholz’s government. The Green Party, he said, is the only party talking about closing down Nord Stream 2.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk recently said that he is confident that Ukraine will continue to support Ukraine no matter what happens in the elections.
“It was during this very long and thorough conversation that we heard firsthand Berlin’s readiness to continue its activity in the Normandy format after the election. What will it be like? It is difficult to say how the focus and approaches will change. After all, it is clear that it will not be the same as today when Ms. Merkel called Putin every two or three weeks and maintained direct contact with our president and the French side,” Melnyk said, according to Ukrinform, and did not mention the issue of Nord Stream 2.
About Nord Stream 2
The completion of Nord Stream 2 has cost around 11 billion dollars, and it doubles the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline to the EU. Ukraine has been against the project as it makes it possible for Russia to bypass Ukraine. Today, much Russian gas is going through Ukraine but isn’t necessary anymore with the completion of Nord Stream 2.
The gas pipeline will take the total capacity for gas transit in the Baltics to 110 billion cubic meters of gas every year. The pipeline has been opposed vigorously by Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the US, but in the end, Biden and Merkel worked out their differences.
The pipeline will make it possible for Russia to keep supplying Europe with gas without sending it through Ukraine. This means that Ukraine will be losing around 1.5 billion USD every year in transmission fees. Germany and the United States guaranteed their support to Ukraine after the completion of Nord Stream 2.
“The United States and Germany are steadfast in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and chosen European path. We recommit ourselves today to push back against Russian aggression and malign activities in Ukraine and beyond. The United States pledges to support Germany’s and France’s efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine via the Normandy Format,” wrote the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.
The German and U.S. guarantees haven’t stopped the critical voices in Ukraine. The guarantees are often seen as vague and Ukrainian politicians have said that the EU is becoming too dependent on Russian gas with the completion of Nord Stream 2 and that it threatens Ukraine. They argue that Russia, with the completion, isn’t dependent on the goodwill of Ukraine for gas transit anymore, which could make Russia more aggressive towards its neighbor, with whom it has been fighting since 2014 in Donbas.