Rügen is best known as a popular German tourist destination. But now the Baltic Sea island has taken on a new role as staging point for an energy project that is as ambitious as it is controversial: the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Next spring the first pipeline segments will likely be dropped to the sea floor in a line that will wind through Russian, Finish, Swedish, Danish and German waters—conspicuously avoiding the Baltic states and Poland.
This is because the Nord Stream project is part of an exclusionary agreement between Moscow and Berlin—nicknamed in circumvented Warsaw the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact,” after the 1939 Soviet-Nazi deal to carve up Poland. It would have been much cheaper to build an overland pipeline through Eastern Europe, but the purpose of Nord Stream from the beginning was to bypass countries Moscow still considers to be part of its sphere of influence.
Russia’s geopolitical message here is clear: It doesn’t trust the new EU member states as transit countries or even as energy consumers and is willing to incur enormous costs to bypass them. The other message—or implied threat—is that Nord Stream will allow the Kremlin to cut off gas deliveries to Eastern Europe through current pipelines without reducing energy supplies to Germany. But what sort of message does Germany, a fellow EU member, intend to send to its neighbors?
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The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pipeline