I recently read an insightful Eurasia Review article dated February 16, 2022 , which stated that the crisis in Ukraine is not about Ukraine, but about Germany and especially the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Indeed, the world has gone to war over energy before. Ukraine is affected by the fact that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline bypasses Ukraine, which would lose approximately 3 billion dollar pot annually from gas transit fees. Ukraine filed an official complaint against the project in 2015 through the Naftogaz gas company.

The permit process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was delayed due to EU legislation in November 2021. At the time, the permit process in Brussels was estimated to take four months. According to these estimates, it would have been ready at the turn of February or March. The pipe itself was ready for operation for a long time except for opening the taps.

The United States has opposed the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline at all stages and imposed sanctions on the companies involved long before Russia’s February attack. It has repeatedly tried to stop The Kremlin’s energy projects in the past – such as the Druzhba oil pipeline in the 1960s and the Bratstvo gas pipeline in the 1980s.

In particular, the overlaps with the stages of the Bratsvo (Yamal) gas pipeline show that history repeats itself. Madalina Sisu Vicari , PhD candidate at the University of Liège, who studies the geopolitics of energy, has written an excellent article about these junctions, ”How Russian pipelines heat up tensions: from Reagan’s fight over Yamal to the European dispute over Nord Stream 2”.

History repeats itself

The Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhhorod gas pipeline , also known as the Bratstvo pipeline, the Brotherhood pipeline, the Yamal pipeline, the West Siberian pipeline or the Trans-Siberian pipeline, is one of Russia’s most important pipelines for the export of natural gas. It is a gas pipeline partially owned and operated by Ukraine.

The administration of US President Ronald Reagan strongly opposed Soviet plans to build the pipeline. Reagan offered to supply West Germany with energy in the form of coal, but the Western Europeans rejected the proposal. Coal prices were higher than Soviet gas prices, the implementation would have required the construction of coal gasification plants, and replacing gas with coal, mainly in industry, would cause environmental problems, among other things.

As a result, the US came up with other ideas – replacing Soviet energy supplies with gas from Norway’s Troll field or Groningen in the Netherlands. These proposals were also rejected in Europe as they proved impossible to implement immediately.

In November 1981, after Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev ’s visit to German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Ruhrgas AG and Soyusgazexport signed an agreement on the Yamal (Bratstvo) gas pipeline.

At the same time, new tensions arose in the geopolitical context in Poland, where a state of emergency and martial law was declared on December 13, 1981.

In December 1981, in response to martial law in Poland, the United States imposed sanctions that prevented American companies from exporting to the Soviet Union the oil and gas technology needed to build the pipeline. In June 1982, the sanctions were extended to cover subsidiaries of American companies in Europe.

The perceptions of the US allies in Western Europe about the military threat posed by the Soviet Union differed from that of the United States. They refused the boycott and the sanctions drove a wedge between Western Europe and the United States. The foreign ministers of the EEA region considered the continuation of US sanctions illegal. In Europe, the project was seen as an opportunity for the depressed steel and engineering industry and as a way to diversify OPEC oil reserves.

At the time, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was keeping a close eye on the gas pipeline project. According to declassified CIA estimates at the time, the gas deal would provide the Soviet Union with two main political benefits: closer political and economic ties with Western Europe, which could increase the legitimacy of Soviet foreign policy in the eyes of its Western European counterparts, and weaken US anti-Soviet initiatives led by NATO.

In January 1982, Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the Soviet economy through covert technology transfers that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that would later trigger a giant explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline visible from space. Thomas Reed , former US Air Force Secretary who served on Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council, has written about it in his memoirs .

The importance of Georgia and the South Caucasus

In 2006, the gas pipeline to Georgia (Mozdok-Tbilisi pipeline/North Caucasus-Transcaucasia Gas Pipeline) exploded. The natural gas pipelines running on Russian soil, in North Ossetia, were damaged and the gas stopped flowing to Georgia. The destruction was done with the help of remote-controlled charges intended for military use.

Yle’s article on October 2, 2022 says:

”The culprit behind the pipeline attack was, for example, clear in the opinion of the President of Georgia, Mihail Saakashvili : Russia.

It was interpreted that the neighboring superpower wanted to put pressure on the pro-Western Georgia, a former Soviet republic that was applying for NATO.

Russia never admitted to sabotage. There is no incontrovertible evidence of this .”

However, Yle’s reporters forget to mention that the incident seemed to benefit Azerbaijan’s gas pipeline (South Caucasus Pipeline BTE), which was commissioned in May 2006. The first gas deliveries through the pipeline began on September 30, 2006.

A 2016 article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus by the think tank Heinrich Böll Foundation states the following about the ”Gas Pipeline War in the South Caucasus and Georgia”:

”Azerbaijan holds part of the vast Caspian energy resources that constitute around 3-4 % of the world reserves. Driven by US and EU special interests, Azerbaijan managed to establish a transit route for energy resources to the Black Sea and on to the Mediterranean bypassing Russia.Georgia has become an essential part of Caspian energy transit architecture, hosting sections of two major pipelines: Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (ed. note BTC oil pipeline) and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (ed. note BTE gas pipeline). For the US and EU Georgia “matters because of its importance as a transit route for energy goods from the Caspian Sea region.”

”The new route has been recognized as “destructive” for Russia’s South Caucasus policy as it undermines Russia’s ambitious goals of monopolizing hydrocarbon routes from East to West and expanding its influence towards the Middle East.”

The article also comments on the concept of the EU’s Southern Gas Corridor:

”The concept of a Southern Gas Corridor, a “project of European interest”, connecting the countries of the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to the EU by long natural gas pipelines, posed a threat to Russia’s monopoly over the EU’s gas market. Russia responded with a number of projects of its own, including the ”Blue Stream” pipeline leading first to Bulgaria and then Turkey, whom it considered an energy ally until late 2015.”

”For Georgia, integration with the EU and Euro-Atlantic structures has served as a red line in all political negotiations. In 2013 Russia heavily pressured Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine not to sign the Association Agreement with EU.”

”Human rights organisations heavily criticise the EU’s stance towards the Southern Gas Corridor as its implementation would strengthen the dictatorship in Azerbaijan and thus worsens the human rights situation there.”

The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst writes in it’s article ”Georgia mulls over resuming gas imports from Russia”:

“Georgia was heavily dependent on Russian gas before two subsequent explosions took place on the Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipeline in the southern Russian border region of North Ossetia in 2006. The Georgian government at the time termed the incident “gas sabotage” and redirected Georgia’s gas imports to instead rely heavily on gas from its strategic partner Azerbaijan. The move bolstered the partnership between Baku and Tbilisi and enhanced the motivation of both countries to implement regional energy projects circumventing Russian territory. The Southern Gas Corridor, including SCP and the planned Trans Anatolian (TANAP) and Trans Adriatic (TAP) pipelines – is one reflection of such efforts. These projects offer the EU alternative routes for gas delivery and simultaneously reduce Russia’s geopolitical leverage on both Georgia and Azerbaijan.”

The strange thing is that in this case too, Russia would have blown up its own gas pipelines and thereby turned the situation to the West’s advantage with its own actions.

We also remember that the United States accelerated the arming of Ukraine before Russia invaded the country in February. The administration of US President George W. Bush, on the other hand, also increased military and economic aid to the countries of the Caspian Sea region, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, before the aforementioned events in 2002-2004.

In 2007, Russia announced two major gas pipeline projects, Nord Stream and South Stream. In the same year, Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union.

Teemu Muhonen of Taloussanomat says in his article from 2016 that instead of South Stream, the EU and the US supported the competing Nabucco gas pipeline project, in which a consortium led by Austrian OMV and German RWE would have started importing natural gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia and NATO country Turkey to Europe.

In 2008, a five-day war broke out between Russia and Georgia, which nevertheless helped the Nabucco gas pipeline project. Nabucco’s European transit countries were planned to be Bulgaria and Romania.

Turkey, which prioritized its own gas needs, became an obstacle to Nabucco. It felt that the EU was blackmailing it with the carrot of EU membership and at the same time waving a stick of alternative projects that would bypass Turkey. Instead of Nabucco, Turkey decided to offer a route for Russia’s South Stream. 

As an alternative to Nabucco, an Adriatic gas pipeline running from Greece to Italy (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) was planned, which would be connected to the pipeline between Azerbaijan and Turkey (Trans-Anatolian Pipeline). The United States opposed this, citing Iran sanctions.

Previous gas disputes between Russia and Ukraine

In 2009, a gas dispute arose between Russia and Ukraine. Gazprom refused to enter into a supply agreement unless the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz paid its accumulated debts from previous gas deliveries. The dispute started at the end of 2008 with failed negotiations, and from the beginning of 2009, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine. 

After the epiphany, the dispute turned into a crisis when all Russian gas flows through Ukraine were halted for 13 days, completely cutting off supplies to southeastern Europe, most of which is dependent on Russian gas.

The dispute was resolved on January 18 when then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko negotiated a new agreement that would cover the next ten years. In October 2011, a Ukrainian court sentenced Tymoshenko to seven years in prison for abuse of office in her role in signing that agreement. In the aftermath of Euromaidan, Tymoshenko’s sentence was overturned.

Gas supply disputes between Ukraine and Russia have a long history .

Nord Stream and South Stream are moving forward – again the pipes are banging

In 2010, construction of Nord Stream began and plans for South Stream progressed. 

At the beginning of the same year, the Azerbaijani section of the Ozdok–Makhachkala–Kazi Magomed gas pipeline was commissioned , which connects Baku to the Novo Filya gas measuring facility on the Russian side and whose purpose is to transport Azeri gas to Russia.

The pipeline was attacked with a bomb on January 12, 2010. The explosion caused a fire and left 214,000 people without gas. In the 1990s and 2000s, the pipeline was attacked several times in Chechnya and Dagestan.

The Wikipedia article says: 

”Experts argue that the significance of the deal is high both for Azerbaijan and Russia. Russia will be paying Azerbaijan an estimated $350 per thousand cubic meters which is the highest price Russia had ever paid for gas imports from Caucasus and Central Asia (compare to $300 per tcm for Uzbek and Turkmen gas), thus hoping to decrease prospects of other potential gas export projects from or through Azerbaijan such as Nabucco or White Stream.”

Turkey and Greece in the center

In 2014, Russia put the South Stream gas pipeline project on hold. Putin cited the EU’s opposition as the reason. The intention was to replace South Stream with Turk Stream. 

At the same time, the preparation of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline progressed rapidly. The United States was surprisingly ready to start negotiations on the lifting of sanctions against Iran.

In the summer of 2015, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed with Putin on the construction of Turk Stream, to the shock of Europe. Later that year, the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Turkish-Syrian border, after which Russia put the Turk Stream project on hold.

In 2016, Greece and the EU reached an agreement on a new support package. In the spring of the same year, Greece celebrated the start of construction of the Adriatic gas pipeline.

In the Taloussanomat article, Teemu Muhonen writes:

”The US State Department, which strongly supported the third loan package, was represented at the celebrations, and Secretary of State John Kerry sent Tsipras a congratulatory letter for the construction of the pipeline.”

In an article dated July 2016, the Athenian newspaper Ekathimerini writes:

Amos Hochstein, the US State Department’s special envoy on energy, has been a regular visitor to Athens in the past few years and in his most recent trip this month he met last week with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

With the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) deal already signed, the terminal station in Alexandroupoli in northern Greece in the final stretch and the Greece-Bulgaria interconnecting pipeline (IBG) under way, Hochstein tells Kathimerini that Greece could become the entrance point for natural gas coming from the US and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The American official believes that the South Stream pipeline is a political scheme that will only benefit Russia and calls for a stop to plans for the North Stream II pipeline, arguing that it will have a negative economic and political impact on counties like Ukraine and Slovakia.”

And also:

”There’s been an American involvement in TAP because the US government has championed this project from Azerbaijan, through Turkey and Greece and Albania and inside Italy.”

When Hochstein, Washington’s special envoy for energy, was asked if he believed that Alexandropoli could serve as an entry point for natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean, Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, Hochstein replied:

“Yes, 100 percent. We’re in a unique timing. The US starts to export gas. Israel starts to export gas… Israel is in the final phase of approvals and it will begin to develop the Leviathan gas field. Egypt is developing the Zohr Field. These are very large gas fields that have will have to be exported. If Egypt has LNG and wants to find buyers in Europe, and Greece has the LNG facility in Alexandropoli, it becomes a very attractive place to interconnect into Europe.”

The envoy also commented on the Nord Stream 2 project, reinforcing the US’s longstanding opposition to the project:

”Maybe it would be a good idea to pause North Stream II so that Brussels can reflect on the environmental, political, economical and security impacts, and not rush into a project that would have so many consequences in so many countries” says Hochstein.

Recent developments, such as the explosions of the Nord Stream gas pipelines and the subsequent statements by the US administration and President Joe Biden himself, which spread like wildfire on social media , that if Russia attacks Ukraine, the Nord Stream will not proceed, are well known at this point. Biden announced in a video that the United States will end the project.

What are America’s motives?

Let’s go back to the Eurasia Review article that I talked about at the beginning. It summarizes the ideas as follows:

The United States does not want Russian-German relations to strengthen. Bilateral gas trade builds trust and trust increases trade. As relations warm up, trade barriers are dismantled, regulations are eased and a new security architecture is developed.

In a world where the EU and Russia are friends and trading partners, there is no need for US military bases, expensive US-made weapon systems or NATO. There is also no need to make energy contracts in dollars. Transactions between the partners can be conducted in their own currencies, which inevitably results in a sharp drop in the value of the dollar and a dramatic shift in economic power.

Warm relations between the EU and Russia would mean the end of the unipolar world order that the US has overseen for the past 75 years.

The war in Ukraine has served the long-term goals of the US to create the perception that Russia is a security threat to Europe. It has once again driven a wedge between the EU and Russia. In the end, that was the only way the Nord Stream 2 project stopped – for a while. However, as winter is approaching, the Germans have begun to demand the waiver of sanctions and the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Germany’s decision to freeze the Nord Stream 2 project on February 22, 2022, 2 days before the Russian attack, can be seen in today’s light as an attempt to ease tensions towards the United States, but Putin seems to have had enough.

Putin’s latest move in the geopolitical gas game is the plan presented to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 13 to build a gas delivery center in Turkey.

According to Putin, Turkey is ”the most reliable route for supplying gas to the European Union” and that the center would not only be a platform for deliveries, but also for determining the price. Both presidents had ordered the idea to be explored quickly and in detail.

A following quote from Teemu Muhonen’s 2016 article in Taloussanomat is an essential key to understanding the wars in Europe: 

”All the continent’s biggest crises in recent years have hit the most important gas transit countries.”

The geopolitical gas war going on behind the scenes is a hidden factor behind the European wars, which the regular experts in the mainstream media do not accidentally talk about.

Whoever is behind the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines brought some of the dark reality behind Europe’s wars into the bright light of day.

This article is an English translation of the article I wrote for Vastaan Sanomat. You may translate the article in your own language. I hereby give publication permission for translations to independent media outlets. Please include the name of the author and a link to this page in your publication.