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article imageRussian Pipeline Approved to Run Through Danish Waters

By Christoffer Olling Back     Oct 21, 2009 in World
The Danish government has just approved the building of a pipeline through it's waters which will supply Germany with natural gas directly from Russia. The project has evoked criticism.
The controversial plans to build a pipeline to supply Germany and Western Europe with Russian natural gas have finally been approved by the Danish government. The project, also known as the Nord Stream Gas Pipeline (NSGP) has evoked some criticism and has raised questions regarding the European Union's energy policy, or lack thereof.
The 1,200km (744 mile) pipeline runs through Danish territorial waters on its stretch through the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast at Vyborg to the town of Greifswald in north-eastern Germany. From here it can supply the rest of Western Europe and the British Isles while bypassing eastern states like Poland and Ukraine
Divide and Conquer
The plans are clearly political in nature, notes former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Elleman. The project is not the most economically viable option, as it would be far cheaper to expand the current land lines in the east.
Critics note that the current plan would allow Russia to shut off gas supply to countries like Poland and Ukraine without stopping supply to the western states.
Former national security advisor to the Carter administration, Zbigniew Brzezinski, calls the project an attempt by Russia to, "separate Central Europe from Western Europe insofar as dependence on Russian energy is concerned.”
Former Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski criticised the deal saying, “Taking the decision first and consulting us later is not our idea of solidarity.”
Russia owns 51% of the project through the state owned oil and gas corporation Gazprom. Nearly one quarter of the state's income comes from the company.
It would not be the first time natural gas supplies from Russia were cut off to these countries. As recently as last winter many eastern European families were unable to heat their homes after Russia cutoff the gas supply after disagreements with Ukraine regarding payment terms. The gas started flowing again only after the western states, also supplied by the same pipelines, picked up the bill.
The Swedes have also voiced concern about national security implications of the pipeline which runs near its coast for hundreds of kilometers. Former Minister of Defense, Mikael Odenberg stated, "We get a pipeline that motivates Russian navy presence in our economic zone and the Russians can use this for military intelligence should they want to. Of course that is a problem."
Split in the EU
This has brought to light the underlying issue of lacking unity in European energy policy. Currently, individual countries are able to make special agreements with foreign suppliers, protecting their own interests, not necessarily that of the Union as a whole. Germany, the EU's largest member state and economy, depends on Russia for one third of its gas supply. So when Schröder and Putin are at the negotiating table, it is not the security interest of Sweden's 9 million citizens or the struggling economies to the east that are of most concern.
Most European countries are reliant to some degree on Russian gas and this dependence will likely increase especially for western states as supplies from oil and gas fields in the North Sea dry up over next few years. Currently Gazprom supplies Europe with about 28% of its gas needs.
Poland has pushed for a common policy towards Russia since it joined the EU in 2004.
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