Russia notified the environmental authorities of all countries bordering on to the Baltic Sea of the completion of the international environmental review of the Nord Stream 2 project. Now the potential danger of a pipeline to the environment cannot be used as an argument against its construction. However, Washington and Brussels have long made it clear that they are against the Nord Stream 2 at all for ecological reasons, but only for political reasons. «Forpost» asked the German political scientist Alexander Rahr, whether the chances for the implementation of this project and the normalization of relations between Russia and the EU as a whole are great.
In your opinion, is it possible to improve relations between Russia and Europe in the near future?
We must remain positive. The Cold War is over; we live on the same continent together. And the idea of building Europe not against, but together with Russia remains a very important strategic task for Western Europeans. We need to go through an acute phase of the crisis in our relations, and in the future, they certainly should become better.
Yes, indeed, a number of countries in Eastern Europe, solely for ideological reasons, are not just hampering but destroying the energy union between East and West that has been under construction for the last 50 years and has long proved its effectiveness. Well, Americans, of course, are very vigorously defending their national interests.
However, the EU still remains Russia's main trading partner; it needs cooperation with Russia. Still, Russia is a very important market for future investments of the European Union, for trade. I prefer to think that through mutual understanding, through the fact that there are certain crises in Europe, including economic ones, which can be solved only with the help of Russia, we will come to some positive decisions.
There is an opinion that sanctions are directed not against Russia, but possibly against Europe itself. Do you agree with this?
The latest America's sanctions are directed, above all, against Western companies that want to cooperate with Russia in the gas or oil sphere. This is the case. After the events of 2014 in Ukraine, European and even American sanctions were not aimed at harming the Russian economy, they were aimed at putting pressure on Russia.
The latest US sanctions are very tough. They are really aimed at the destruction of the energy alliance between Russia and the EU. Masks are dropped, that's all clear. The question is whether the United States has remained that huge hegemon, which, by its decision, can change the course of economic development, write new laws of the world economy. Time will tell.
Will these sanctions affect the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline? After all, companies including Western ones are acting as investors of the project...
The documents were signed before these sanctions were introduced, so I think everything will be fine there. But the risks still remain. In fact, everything depends on the position of the future German government. If Germany finds that the project is necessary and will be supported as it has been supported so far, especially the Social Democrats, then even American sanctions can be defeated.
If any other government comes along that rises to rigid pro-American positions, then not only the fate of the Nord Stream 2, but the entire energy alliance between the West and Russia will be in question. I find it hard to believe, I want to remain an optimist. I think that our relations will not be destroyed to such an extent. I am sure that Europeans will try to find some new ways to overcome the crisis.
The stands of the EU and Germany on the matter of the construction of the Nord Stream 2 are markedly different. What should Germany do to convince Brussels of the importance of this project, both for Germany and for the whole Europe?
Germany should use its authority, its weight and financial leverage in order to defend its own interests in the EU. Still, Germany is the main donor of the European Union. But here again, it will depend on what will be the future German government. If it considers that it is necessary to restore relations with Russia, and they are certainly beneficial for Germany, then most of the members of the European Union will follow this new course.
You took part in the Russian-German Raw Materials Conference, which was held at the end of November in St. Petersburg. Can this platform become the basis for the normalization of relations between our countries?
Much to my regret, apart from this annual conference, we no longer have forums where representatives of Russia and the West could openly talk, negotiate the development of business relations. They disappeared. And we need to re-create bridges. But this Raw Materials Forum has remained; he is already 10 years old.
In my opinion, it plays a more important role than the Petersburg dialogue, which has changed its focus. First of all, civil spheres are discussed there. Here we are talking about strategic tasks. This can be judged by the last names of politicians who come here.
I am convinced that, through such conferences, we will be able to raise the level of confidence and lay the foundation for the reestablishment of relations."
P.S. The interview with Alexander Rahr was conducted immediately after the closed meeting of representatives of authorities and industrial groups of the two countries, which took place within the framework of the Russian-German Raw Materials Dialogue. During the meeting, in particular, the issues of strategic energy cooperation were discussed. From the German side, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Federal Republic of Germany Sigmar Gabriel, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Klaus Töpfer, former Minister-President of the Free State of Bavaria Edmund Stoiber, former adviser on foreign policy and security of ex-chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl Horst Telchik, Minister-President of the Free State of Saxony Stanislaw Tillich, political scientist Alexander Rahr took part in it.
From the Russian side, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, Rector of the Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko, Chairman of the Energy Committee of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Pavel Zavalny, President of NP "Miners of Russia" Valery Yazev, member of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, coordinator of the working group for the preparation of the interstate "Agreement on the intensification of scientific and technical cooperation in the raw materials sector" between Russia and Germany Dmitry Vasilenko took part in it.