Russia’s Lavrov Accuses Washington of ‘Humiliating’ Germany

The persistent mystery regarding who actually bombed the Nord Stream pipelines notwithstanding, there is a tremendous amount of money at stake.

AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool, file
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, at Moscow November 18, 2022. AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool, file

In a development likely to cause consternation at Berlin, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has accused America of humiliating Germany on the world stage over the Nord Stream pipeline. 

Addressing reporters at Moscow this week, the ever-expressive Mr. Lavrov used some turbocharged language to make his feelings perfectly clear: “The pipeline explosions were sort of the final solution of the German gas issue,” he said, and “an attempt to resolve the German issue precisely the way some are trying to finally resolve the ‘Russian issue’: to never let Germany play any independent role in the foreseeable future.”

Like a matryoshka doll, was there a kernel of something else buried inside the serial grouch’s latest round of broadsides? Possibly. First, recall that earlier this month a well-known investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, made the bombshell claim that President Biden sanctioned the September destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines as part of a covert naval operation, with support from Norwegian specialists. The White House has denied those claims, though Mr. Hersh is sticking to his guns

While the story has largely been eclipsed by superseding events in Ukraine and is even considered as sacrilegious by some in the West, in Russia it is already taken for gospel. On Thursday, Russia called for a February 22 meeting of the UN Security Council “in light of new information regarding the bombing of the Nord Stream gas pipelines.”

The persistent mystery regarding who actually bombed the pipelines and the international blame game notwithstanding, there is a tremendous amount of money at stake. The $11 billion Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea between Russia and northern Germany were financed not only by a Kremlin-linked energy giant, Gazprom, but also by German, Austrian, and even Italian companies. 

The pipelines are several hundred miles long, and it is not likely that they are completely beyond repair. It will reportedly cost about half a billion dollars to patch them up. 

Mr. Lavrov said that Germany “was not just humiliated, it was put in its place as a satellite of the United States, which will decide whether it will be able to ensure its economic development and meet the social needs of its citizens by using gas coming through the gas pipeline which, in part, it had paid for.”

That language is both specious and cryptic. Even if Washington does not have the special relationship with Berlin that it does with London, the NATO allies’ military and strategic cooperation is never in question. It simply serves Russian interests to make Germany squirm, especially when state-of-the-art German Leopard 2 combat tanks are starting to make their way to Ukraine. 

It is also true that when, just weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden spoke about “bringing an end” to the pipelines, Chancellor Scholz was standing almost right next to him, and mostly just looked on.

Yet for Germany to take the lead from Washington and NATO in matters of security and defense is hardly anything new. The country has multiple domestic issues with which to contend. What is more problematic for Moscow is the significant loss of revenue from Russian gas that by now was meant to be cornering the German market. Mr. Lavrov’s suggestion that America “will decide” whether Russian gas ever gets past the murky Baltic is not just a taunt, but also a rather desperate plea to turn around the situation. 

In this respect, regardless of the back-and-forth between Mr. Hersh and Biden administration officials, and no matter what comes of the Security Council meeting, that Washington has already scored an economic victory over Russia can hardly be denied.

The New York Sun

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