Should Ukraine Prepare for War?

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Risks for Ukraine from the Nord Stream 2 Project



Dmytro Pervyna


“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” — who would have thought that what Nietzsche said in the second half of the 19th century would be so important for Ukraine right now, in the 8th year of Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine. People are tired of it, they don’t want to hear about it, it is too difficult to surprise someone with it, but it is there and we can’t give up the right to talk about it, especially feeling serious changes in the future.

…It is important for Ukraine to draw the world community’s attention to what is happening in Eastern Europe — on the frontier of the saturated stability of our European partners…

When you hear that Ukraine is winning this war, know that you are being cynically lied to at least on the grounds that there can be no winners in a war — there are only victims in a war. A state in which soldiers die in shelling every day in what is commonly called an “operation”, cannot win. A state whose strategic defense enterprises are being destroyed from within by Russian oligarchs and corrupt agents of influence, has little advantage over such an insidious and well-prepared adversary as Russia. But we are fighting, monitoring their military maneuvers and any, even the slightest remarks from the Kremlin. It is important for us to draw the world community’s attention to what is happening in Eastern Europe — on the frontier of the saturated stability of our European partners. But at the same time, we ask ourselves: “Does the Western world care about the problems of Ukraine, which is about to leave the orbit of the economic interests of the European Union?”. This question is rhetorical and we will get an answer to it later.

You may have already guessed that today we will talk about the Nord Stream 2 project. What it is for, what it is about and what risks it carries for Ukraine — we will try to tell in this article.

Nord Stream 2 is an almost complete major gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. It is laid on the bottom of the Baltic Sea and has a total length of 1234 kilometers.

The gas issue has been quite painful for us for a long time, this has its own explanations, which date back to the energy crises of 2006 and 2009. It was then that Gazprom initiated a halt to gas supplies to the EU and accused the Ukrainian authorities of allegedly violating transit obligations. Such accusations led to an international scandal, and in 2010, Russia, as if nothing had happened, announced the need to increase gas supplies to the EU. They calculated a gradual increase in gas demand in European countries to 200 billion cubic meters per year, but the increase in Russian gas supplies was hampered by the first packages of economic sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation in the spring of 2014 due to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. However, the Nord Stream 2 project, announced in 2010, began to be implemented only in 2015, when Gazprom’s management, led by A. Miller, agreed to build a second string of the pipeline with influential European energy companies.

…By manipulating gas contracts, Russia will try to agree with Western countries on their non-interference in relations between Kyiv and Moscow…

When the Germans signed a construction contract with the Russians, it was, ironically, then that the official Berlin began to persuade us to negotiate peace in the format of the “Normandy Four”. The six years that have passed since the “Second Minsk” clearly proved to us the complete ineffectiveness of these agreements and commitments, as none of them has been fulfilled by the Russian side. Instead, now that European gas corporations Shell, OMV, Uniper and Wintershall DEA are investing in Nord Stream 2, we see that Berlin has taken off its “mask” because it is the main lobbyist for Russia’s interests in the West.

Russia, for its part, by engaging European gas companies, is partially abdicating responsibility for the Nord Stream 2 project. By shifting construction tasks to German contractors, the Kremlin is defending its own economic interests on the one hand and involving German corporations in the scam on the other, not only making them interested in building the pipeline, but also turning them into a hostage. Russia is a completely unpredictable “player” and we should be aware that by manipulating gas contracts, it will try to agree with Western countries on their non-interference in relations between Kyiv and Moscow. Attempts at such agreements may hide the intention of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and in this case there is a risk that Moscow will have no one to stop, because the European Union’s economic sanctions will primarily hurt the Europeans themselves by hitting their energy corporations. Thus, Germany, taking care of its own energy stability, will most likely try to impose another “Minsk” on Ukraine, or Steinmeier’s revised formulas — whatever, in order not to provide real help. Does this make it our ally? I’m afraid, it does not. And it is pointless to accuse it of such a position.

…Completion of Nord Stream 2 is signaling a sharpening of contradictions and accumulation of problems in the European Union itself…

Completion of Nord Stream 2 is currently signaling a sharpening of contradictions and accumulation of problems in the European Union itself, as the EU is heavily dependent on Russian energy on the one hand and must meet its obligations to the United States on the other. In such a situation, it is impossible to maintain Europe’s equal relations with Moscow and Washington, because one excludes the other.

Perhaps the biggest threat from Nord Stream 2 is that it, like Ukraine’s gas transportation system, can supply about 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year to the European Union. The Kremlin and Europe believe that it would be more appropriate for both sides to supply gas bypassing Ukraine directly from Russia. In this way, Russia will save billions of dollars in transit, and Europe will get rid of its obligations to maintain stability in Ukraine, which provides gas supplies. Therefore, the construction of Nord Stream 2 is the best opportunity for Berlin to get rid of its geopolitical dependence on Kyiv, but whether it will secure itself remains anybody’s guess. Defending its own pipeline, Ukraine focuses on its existing underground storage facilities, which serve as so-called airbags in case of force majeure, seasonal and other fluctuations in gas demand. The availability of such storage facilities allows European partners to ensure uninterrupted supply, which cannot be offered by any “streams”.

US Secretary of State R. Tillerson in 2018 explained the implementation of Nord Stream 2 as Russia’s attempt to undermine Europe’s energy security and stability, so the then US administration announced new sanctions banning contractors from continuing operations, but by a strange coincidence, protests began in the United States at that time, which prevented Washington from fully implementing the plan. Soon, weakened by the aggressive actions of the protesters, the US administration agreed to the ultimatum and appeals to Germany to lift the sanction if the official Berlin meets the needs of Ukraine and tries to prevent its disconnection from the European gas infrastructure. Germany agreed to these terms and J. Biden lifted sanctions from the “Stream”. The 46th US President explained his decision by the fears that sanctions against Nord Stream 2 in the final phase of its construction would complicate US dialogue with European allies and partners. This Washington’s decision against the background of Putin’s recently published article became a “Rubicon” for Ukraine.

…Will Europe support us if Ukraine stops providing gas transit, and most importantly, will the North Atlantic Alliance want to protect us if Moscow decides on a full-scale escalation of the conflict?..

According to our American allies, it is now more important for Ukraine than ever to revise its agreements with Russia on regulating the gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transportation system. This will allow our side to minimize the risks of future provocations or sabotage. Besides, Washington believes that the time has come for Ukraine to focus on building its own gas infrastructure as part of the “Great Construction”. German initiatives are to blame for everything. The Ukrainian side itself perceives such initiatives as extremely disappointing, as financial revenues from gas transit accounted for almost a third of our state’s annual budget, some of which goes to the army and defense. Therefore, the question arises: “Will Europe support us if Ukraine stops providing gas transit, and most importantly, will the North Atlantic Alliance want to protect us if Moscow decides on a full-scale escalation of the conflict?” Anticipating Kyiv’s concerns, the Americans say that even when Nord Stream 2 is completed, the White House will not refuse to help protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and even emphasizes the possibility of imposing sanctions on European companies that buy Russian gas, but recalling Biden’s ambivalent rhetoric, it again resembles another promise.

In the spring of 2021, when during the military exercises Russia brought hundreds of pieces of military equipment and hundred of thousands of troops to our borders, the whole world shuddered, and for good reason, because the exercises themselves are the best reason to transport heavy armored vehicles without arising suspicion. In the future, Russia’s troops concentrated in areas bordering Ukraine will be used for offensive operations. That is why we are paying attention to the war against Georgia in 2008. At that time, as part of the “Caucasus-2008” exercise, Russia also drew troops to the Georgian border, then withdrew them, distracting attention — all this was two weeks before the full-scale invasion.

…Now when the construction of Nord Stream 2 is nearing completion and details of the Kremlin’s military plans are coming to the surface, we can clearly see Russia’s preparations for a decisive battle for Ukraine…

In the spring of 2021 we had a similar experience of escalation, especially given the aggravation of the situation in the Donbas, but the invasion of Ukraine did not happen and this is understandable, because no one in their right mind would dare to launch a military campaign against the state through which 6 billion cubic meters of Russian gas are transported annually. However, now when the construction of Nord Stream 2 is nearing completion and details of the Kremlin’s military plans are coming to the surface, we can clearly see Russia’s preparations for a decisive battle for Ukraine. The beginning of these preparations can be called the strategic exercise “West-2017” in Belarus, after which 680 pieces of military equipment remained near the borders of NATO and Ukraine, including 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, 70 helicopters and 50 aircrafts of the Russian Armed Forces. These forces are officially concentrated to deter and intimidate the Baltic states, as the latter are considered the most loyal Ukrainian allies, capable of opening a second front if Ukraine faces open Russian aggression. Therefore, according to the Kremlin’s scenario, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia should face combat units of the Western Military District, including the 1st Guards Tank Army, the 11th Army Corps, the 6th and 20th Combined Arms Armies and three airborne divisions.

…The Kremlin’s political goal of such a regional war is to impose favorable conditions on the next talks with the West…

Now that Russia is “surrounded by geopolitical adversaries”, it simply has no right to a protracted war, so the exercises create the conditions for “flanking attack” needed by the Kremlin to quickly encircle Ukrainian military units, as it did in August 2014 near Ilovaisk. The Kremlin’s political goal of such a regional war is to impose favorable conditions on the next talks with the West. According to this plan, which V. Putin voices in his article, the international dialogue will concern only the division of new spheres of influence, and Ukraine will no longer be an independent state. According to some experts, it is this Kremlin’s rhetoric that is the biggest threat to our independence.

Returning to the April withdrawal of troops, it is necessary to explain why the military invasion did not take place. The reason for this was quite simple — the Russian side did not purchase aviation fuel. No well-planned offensive can do without air support, otherwise the attack of any ground forces would quickly “choke”.

…The events of last April should be seen in Ukraine as a typical pre-battle check for Russia…

The events of last April should be seen in Ukraine as a typical pre-battle check for Russia, or rather, training that allows it to adjust its offensive strategy by assessing Ukraine’s readiness to repulse possible aggression. Having “worked on the mistakes”, they focused on working out a strategy for offensive actions from the south and north. Both plans can only be realized if Russian gas supplies are cut off, which Kremlin analysts say will provoke a social uprising in Ukraine. The role of such an “uprising” will be to paralyze the government and the forces of law and order. This will be a “green light” for the offensive of regular Russian troops from the north.

We cannot help acknowledging the fact that Kyiv is in a 200-kilometer zone from Belarus, with which Ukraine shares 1,084 kilometers of common border. The northern direction is probably what interested Kremlin theorists in the shortest and least fortified route to the Ukrainian capital. This gives the enemy troops a chance to quickly occupy the government district of Kyiv, hydroelectric power plants and radio and television facilities, before the arrival of Ukrainian troops. By disconnecting Ukraine’s capital from communications, electricity and water, the Russians will try to provoke a rapid and “natural” replacement of government with politicians loyal to Moscow from the current opposition. In this case, the Kremlin itself will refuse to acknowledge the presence of its troops in Ukraine, explaining that there were “unknown” military formations.

…Russia’s build-up of major forces is taking place along the entire perimeter of the Ukrainian-Russian and Ukrainian-Belarusian borders…

Carrying out this operation will allow Russia to preserve the military-industrial infrastructure of Ukraine and make it work for the occupation administration. But if this plan does not work, an offensive from the south is expected, the initial phase of which should be the capture of Zmiinyi Island. The goal is to deploy its own air defense systems (presumably S-400s) that will allow Russia to interfere with NATO’s air defense system and disrupt its defenses. At the same time, the RF’s Black Sea Fleet under cover of air defense systems should carry out a naval blockade of the ports of Odessa, Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, thus creating favorable conditions for amphibious landings on the southern flank (probably on the line Odesa — Kherson — Mykolaiv). The involvement of airborne assault brigades in the Russian offensive operation is evidenced by the fact that all airborne troops at Russia’s disposal (except for the Far Eastern units) were deployed to the occupied Crimea. We do not rule out that the offensive is possible from two directions simultaneously, as Russia’s build-up of major forces is taking place along the entire perimeter of the Ukrainian-Russian and Ukrainian-Belarusian borders. Unfortunately, this is not very similar to the usual military maneuvers, as huge forces and means are involved.

…We have very little time to prepare our defense, as the “flywheel” of total war is gaining momentum again…

We have very little time to prepare our defense, as the “flywheel” of total war is gaining momentum again. Looking the truth in the eye, it should be recognized that Ukraine, as well as Georgia or Moldova, will not become a member of NATO in the near future, so an effective alternative should be to obtain the special status of the US Major non-NATO ally. This is due to the fact that the United States is one of the few states over which Russia has no leverage. Apart from the United States, we need to develop international cooperation within the so-called Lublin Triangle with Lithuania and Poland and hopefully we will not repeat the fate of 1922, when Ukraine became a soviet republic.


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