The fight about the pipeline was supposed to give Germany cause to rethink its foreign-policy. Instead, Berlin is supporting a project that will hurt its credibility.
Now that Germany has agreed with France and other member states on new EU regulations for the controversial Nord Stream 2 project, the path for the pipeline to be built seems clear. Nevertheless, the German government is mistaken if it believes that it has satisfied its critics with this deal. Berlin has, from the beginning, underestimated the damage this project would do to its image. Its support for Nord Stream 2 demonstrates how the German government puts the national interest ahead of European and international strategic questions, thereby hurting its credibility in the long-term.
Amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and with the help of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the discussion about Germany and the EU’s energy independence from Russia has continued to intensify since 2014. The German government claimed for years that this was a purely commercial endeavor. But then in April 2018, at a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko, Chancellor Angela Merkel recognized for the first time that the political factors surrounding Nord Stream 2 also had to be taken into account. By not turning against the project, the German government supported it from the start. Sigmar Gabriel, formerly the economy and energy minister and later foreign minister, assured Vladimir Putin at a 2015 meeting in Moscow that he would personally campaign to have the project under German jurisdiction. While the current agreement does not achieve that, Germany is nevertheless now responsible for negotiating the EU regulations and possible exceptions to them. And yet the objectives and repercussions of Nord Stream 2 go beyond Germany and run counter to German and EU interests.