At the NATO summit this week, President Donald Trump was absolutely right to criticize the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel for the deal it cut with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to build a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea connecting Russian producers with German consumers.
Russia has always used its monopoly over oil and gas supplies to attempt to control its customers politically.
Echoing this concern, Trump said that the deal makes Germany a “captive” of Russia. He said it was “very inappropriate” for the U.S. taxpayer to pay for European defense when Berlin was making gas deals with Moscow.
Before this pipeline, natural gas from Russia to Eastern and Central Europe flowed through pipelines that ran through Ukraine, Poland and Hungary. The new $11 billion pipeline bypasses these countries and delivers the gas directly to Germany.
Putin has three goals in the pipeline project:
• Make money for the state-owned energy company Gasprom.
• Increase Russian influence over Germany.
• Make it easier for Moscow to cut off the flow of oil and gas to Ukraine, Hungary and Poland to punish their political independence without forcing him to cut if off to Germany at the same time.
Cutting gas deliveries to Ukraine — and raising the price of gas — is a key element in Putin’s strategy to bring Kiev back into the Russian political orbit.
Several times over the past decade, Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine to punish its political behavior. In particular, when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians braved winter weather to stand for three months in Kiev’s public square to demand that the pro-Russian government resign in the wake of its electoral defeat and turn power over to its democratically, but pro-Western, opposition, Russia turned off the pipeline switch.
But, facing massive protests from Germany and France — who also lost gas supplies as a result of Moscow’s action — Putin had to turn the switch back on.
Now, with a new pipeline under the Baltic, he won’t have to. He can freeze Russia’s former Eastern European satellites to death with impunity.
Trump said, rightly, “when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”
He added: “We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries. And then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. So we’re supposed to protect you against Russia and you pay billions of dollars to Russia, and I think that’s very inappropriate.”
Trump noted that when the pipeline is finished, 70 percent of Germany’s gas supplies will come from Russia, making Berlin a satellite of Moscow.
“Germany,” the president said, “is totally controlled by Russia, cause they are getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.”
It is about time that a U.S. president called on Germany to stop appeasing Russia and making side deals that increase Moscow’s power in Europe.
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