When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Geopolitics

Russian Oil And The Double Standard Of Biden's NordStream Squeeze

The United States expects Germany to put a halt to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the Americans are not mentioning the fact that they themselves import plenty of oil from Russia.

Russian Oil And The Double Standard Of Biden's NordStream Squeeze

A Nord Stream 2 employee in Germany

Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

BERLIN — On his return flight from his inaugural visit to Washington on Monday evening, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was half-jokingly asked to say “Nord Stream 2”, so that he would have uttered the irritant word at least once on his trip. Scholz did it. In all his public statements, he had consistently avoided mentioning the controversial gas pipeline by name.

Americans, both the politicians and the media, tried hard to pressure the Chancellor into making a clear statement that a shutdown of Nord Stream 2 could be part of sanctions against Russia if Vladimir Putin orders his troops to march towards Ukraine.


There was anger in the U.S. media at Scholz’s silence. But the Americans did not want to talk about their own supply of raw materials from Russia. The question of whether the U.S. intends to stop importing Russian oil in the event of a conflict was not answered by U.S. President Joe Biden. With good reason. Because Russia is an important energy supplier for the United States.

U.S. oil imports from Russia

The U.S. imports by far the largest quantities of oil from Canada. But Russia is becoming increasingly important as a source of oil for the U.S. In 2021, Russia replaced Mexico as the second most important exporter of oil and petroleum products to the U.S. for certain months, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Therefore, the U.S. government has no interest in raising the issue of halting oil imports from Russia as a sanction tool — while at the same time urging the German government to threaten a Nord Stream 2 blockade.

Scholz is silent on this. Like Biden, he is keen to emphasize unity among allies, because that is precisely what Putin wants to undermine. But in Germany, the U.S. strategy is certainly being questioned.

U.S. president Joe Biden and German chancellor Olaf Scholz meeting in Washington on Feb. 7

Leigh Vogel/CNP/ZUMA

Filling Putin’s coffers

“The question of whether Russia’s extensive oil deliveries to the United States shouldn’t be part of a sanctions package is legitimate,” Michael Roth, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament, tells die Welt. “We have agreed that in the case of Russian aggression, all options can be on the table. So, if everything is on the table, nothing is beside or under the table,” Roth said.

But the question of what concrete effects this could have on U.S. oil imports should be clarified in confidential talks. In order to keep Putin in the dark as much as possible about possible sanctions, Berlin and Washington are keeping quiet about whether a U.S. blockade of Russian oil could be part of the countermeasures.

Russia’s main goal with Nord Stream 2 is to eliminate Ukraine from gas transit to Europe

Nils Schmid, a member of parliament with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), demands that it should be. “When you start talking about individual points like Nord Stream 2, you also have to talk about other individual points like U.S. oil imports from Russia,” says Schmid, who is the foreign policy spokesman for his parliamentary group. “After all, the Russians have yet to earn a cent from the new pipeline, while oil exports pour billions into Putin’s coffers.”

The opposition in the Bundestag is also urging the U.S. to openly acknowledge the possibility of an embargo on Russian oil. “All conceivable sanctions against Russia in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine must be borne jointly by Europe and the U.S. This includes not only the shutdown of Nord Stream 2, but also a ban on imports of Russian oil to America,” said Mark Helfrich, member of parliament with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and energy policy expert.

Wider criticism of the U.S. stance

Criticism of the U.S. government’s actions also comes from other factions within the opposition. “The U.S. is proving to be duplicitous when referring to Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, while at the same time massively increasing its own oil imports from Russia,” says Left Party politician and chair of the Bundestag Committee on Climate Protection and Energy, Klaus Ernst.

And Tino Chrupalla, co-chairman of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, explains: “The fact that the U.S. wants to force Germany to import expensive and environmentally damaging fracking gas from America, while they themselves obtain inexpensive oil from Russia, is unfair on the allies. The German government must act in Germany’s interest and not accept this without any objections.”

CDU foreign policy expert Roderich Kiesewetter, however, points out that gas deliveries via Nord Stream 2 cannot be compared to U.S. oil imports from Russia. “Russia’s main goal with Nord Stream 2 is to eliminate Ukraine from gas transit to Europe, and it opens the possibility for Moscow to increase political and military pressure on Ukraine without jeopardizing gas trade with Western Europe. This is not the case for the U.S. imports,” Kiesewetter said. “In this respect, it is understandable that the U.S. weighs Nord Stream 2 primarily as a political project and not in connection to its own economic relations.”

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Europe's Winter Energy Crisis Has Already Begun

in the face of Russia's stranglehold over supplies, the European Commission has proposed support packages and price caps. But across Europe, fears about the cost of living are spreading – and with it, doubts about support for Ukraine.

Protesters on Thursday in the German state of Thuringia carried Russian flags and signs: 'First our country! Life must be affordable.'

Martin Schutt/dpa via ZUMA
Stefanie Bolzen, Philipp Fritz, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister, Mandoline Rutkowski, Stefan Schocher, Claus, Christian Malzahn and Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

In her State of the Union address on September 14, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, issued an urgent appeal for solidarity between EU member states in tackling the energy crisis, and towards Ukraine. Von der Leyen need only look out her window to see that tensions are growing in capital cities across Europe due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In the Czech Republic, people are already taking to the streets, while opposition politicians elsewhere are looking to score points — and some countries' support for Ukraine may start to buckle.

With winter approaching, Europe is facing a true test of both its mettle, and imagination.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ