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North Corruption Stream

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  • North Corruption Stream

    Once the Roman emperor Vespesian said a catch-phrase “the money has no smell”. Though it concerned taxation of public bathrooms in the Roman Empire, the phrase is still relevant. However, in our time and in our realities the sewage smell was replaced with a gas smell.

    Construction of “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline has remained a debatable issue in German society and political circles for several months. The arguments were produced that this project would be unprofitable and would not be justified even in in the distant future.

    For example, in May, Alexander Fek, the analyst of Sberbank-SIB, pointed out that those who would benefit from implementation of the project are not the companies which would serve the gas pipeline, but construction contracting companies – “Stroygazmontazh” and “Stroytransneftegaz”, owned by Russian oligarchs Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko respectively, who are president Putin’s old friends and companions. According to the analyst’s report which by the way caused his dismissal, the construction of the access to the sea for the gas pipeline will cost 74,6 billion rubles (about one billion dollars) only, while estimated cost of the whole gas pipeline is 17 billion dollars. The right for the construction was given to “Stroytransneftegaz” company out of the competition.

    However, Russia has their own laws and orders. The Russian side generally has rather geopolitical goals than economic interests in this project. The question is, why does the German side is insistently getting involvedin such unprofitable project? Evaluation of the allocated resources for this project shows that it may be paid off at least in 25 years, and that is the most promising forecasts and subject to the maximum loads. The answer is simple – corruption is bilateral process and its manifestations may be traced both in Russia and in Germany. Especially when the stake is big money.

    To make it more clear let’s get to know closer Matthias Waring who heads “Nord Stream” since 2006. He is also one of the chief lobbyists of “North Stream 2” construction. You may think, what is wrong with it? He is a successful businessman who attempts to increase his capitals by creation of new assets. Except for the fact that these assets will bring profit in a quite distant future. Well, here is something behind it.

    It worth noting that figure of Mr.Waring is quite controversial. Let’s begin with the fact that he is the former employee of the Ministry of State Security of the GDR, known as Stasi (1975-1989). At the end of 1989, during his work in Dresden, he got acquainted with Vladimir Putin who served that times in KGB. However, Waring denied his personal contacts with future Russian leader in every possible way until 1991 when Putin became head of the Departmentof Foreign Policy Communications at St.Petersburgcity council. That was Putin who facilitated licensing of BNP-Dresdner Bank’s activity in Russia in 1993.

    However, that became a history. As for today, in addition to governing “Nord Stream”, Matthias Waring is a member of the board of directors of a great number of Russian companies. This brings him a good profit – more than 2 million euros a year, plus over 4 million from “Nord Stream”. All the companies in which Waring holds senior positions, are Russian or have a considerable share of the Russian capital. Therefore, he has taken an active part in promoting Russia’s interests in Germany for many years. In return Putin awarded him with an Order of Honour in 2012.

    Waring, his activity and his income, both legal and illegal, are only a top of corruption iceberg in the field of distribution of energy resources in the European market. As we have already mentioned, the project is primarily of geopolitical nature for Russia. Moscow attempts to lock up gas supplies to Eastern and Central Europe on themselves in order to dictate their political will. The interest of Germany seems to be even more doubtful, especially in the context of the promise from the USA to impose sanctions against the companies involved in construction. If the Russian government may easily take money from their people upon the pretext of pensionary reform or tax increase to avoid inflicting losses to loyal oligarchs, the question arises, what will the German government do to save in turn their companies?

  • #2
    Oh well, the problem with most international criticism of the Russia-Germany Baltic Sea pipeline is that the self interest especialy of the most vocal critics is staring you in the face very, very obviously, and it is not all fear of Russias sinister goals. For the US it is to crack open the european market for american liquid gas, with Germany beeing the main award. Trumps tirades against Berlin over the project that went way beyond commercial issues, at the NATO summit and even in the UN General Assembly, have been counterproductive for certain, but the main problem is still price. US gas beeing more expensive than Russias and taking more time to deliver means it is non-competitive.
    Ukraine, locked in a semi-frozen conflict with Russia, is mainly concerned about transition fees for its soviet-era pipeline network reaching towards western Europe ( that, to be fair, usually dissappear in its elites pockets). The country is already connected to western european grids that could match any supply needs in "reverse flow" though and it has won a guarantee from Germany that Russia won´t be allowed to shut energy off. And Putin appears to have confirmed the message from Merkel ( at the Meseberg summit in summer). Poland, under its nationalist governement, plays its own political games, and a german/russian cooperation of that scale is obviously too handy not to exploit ( linking it to the Hitler/Stalin pact and all that). Also the baltic nations, whose countries have understandable reservations and negative feelings about Russia have been critical, yet their rethoric has been more measured.
    Yet these countries are unlike Ukraine in the EU. And Putin is not going to play gunboat energy policy with any EU country or the EU as a whole. Which is less a statement of trust in the russian president than in his ability to see which side his bread is buttered.
    And Germany ? Russia has been a supplier of energy since the 1960s ( east and west). And Russia has neverever used energy as a political trumpcard. Not even during the height of the Cold War and not even when the EU ( led by Germany) imposed sanctions over Crimea. Putin even sent Alexej Miller, head of Gazprom, to Berlin to ensure in every camera that energy contracts would be safe. And that has a simple and not very mysterious motive : Russia has few customers of Germanys scale and reliability -- and they need the money. Germanys industries have immense energy needs and the country has deep pockets like few. German leadership has on the other side always been far-sighted enough to never rely exclusively on one supplier. Russia is currently more or less on par with the Netherlands and Norway. And it is ridiculous to claim that other suppliers wouldn´t jump over themselves to accept orders from Germany, if necessary. Merkel has recently held pipeline talks in Turkey and Azerbaidschan for a reason.
    Germany has two key interests here, and noone in Germanys political establishment sees them as contradictory, except in nuances : 1) keeping Russia from rocking the european boat too much and forestall a potential larger conflict 2) tapping Russias energy ressources for the german and european economy. Creating too lucrative commercial relationships for Putin to sacrifice ( Russias reliance on energy exports is around 70/80 % of revenues after all, with the EU topping the list and Germany beeing the largest chunk) is part of that strategy.
    But Berlin is full of russian exiles (also the recently poisoned Pussy Riot activist Verzilov recieved medical treatment in the german capital), Merkel is one of Putins most vocal critics ( Crimea ?), but she has never shut off communication channels, and the two leaders have demonstrated that they CAN work together, if they have to. It might help that neither needs an interpreter. Merkel grew up in the GDR and studied in Moscow while Putin speaks excellent German from his KGB times- and has even once adressed the german parliament--in german. And it is notable that both, while not exactly hiding their differences, usually avoid attacking each other. With Emmanuel Macron or Theresa May Putin is far less cautious.
    The motives behind Nordstream are not so difficult to read : Combining business with neighborhood policy. Engaging Russia in mutually lucrative interdependencies to keep the country from going off track. At the end of the day the nations involved will always share a continent and a geopolitical sphere and have an interest in keeping things around them stable to enable business, even if they are not on friendly terms in politics at the moment. That approach has worked in Europe before and is another motive why Merkel will not bow to Trump on Nordstream.

    Recommended reading :

    Quote : /

    First, the share of Russian imports in Germany’s overall energy portfolio is small. Germany buys about 40 percent of its gas from Russia. Notably, the shares of Poland and the Baltic states far exceed that of Germany, and neither of these countries takes a particularly friendly stance towards Russia. Furthermore, gas makes up only about a quarter of German energy. In other words, a mere 10 percent of Germany’s energy consists of Russian gas.

    Second, to use gas for political leverage, Russia would have to cut off supplies to all EU member states, not just to Germany. This is because Brussels has taken substantial steps to unify Europe’s energy market. These measures, specifically designed to guard against Russian energy manipulations, prevent Russian entities from discriminating between European buyers.

    The EU also continues to improve energy-related infrastructure within the EU—measures that allow member states to share energy in case of sudden shocks to external supplies.

    Divide-and-rule is simply not an option. Berlin is well aware of this—and so is Moscow. Asked about Trump’s assertion that Russia controls Germany via energy, Maxim Bratersky, an International Relations Professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, one of the leading research institutions in the country, simply responded with a dry “of course not.”

    Third, cutting off gas would hurt Russia much more than Germany. Gas sales to Europe, which make up about three quarters of Russia’s overall gas exports, are the economic foundation of the country. The distribution of spoils from the gas trade maintain the peace within Russia’s elite. Gas revenues allow for generous social spending to keep the population largely docile; they fund state media, the security apparatus and Russia’s formidable military forces.

    Alternatives to gas revenues are nowhere to be seen. Massive corruption stifles market-driven growth and Russian society is still struggling with low global fossil fuel prices and international sanctions.

    A source with deep knowledge of the Russian and European energy market confided that Russia—due to brute facts of geography and infrastructure—depends on European purchases, grandiose announcements from the Kremlin about megadeals with China notwithstanding. This will not change in the foreseeable future.

    Lastly, and probably most importantly, Germany’s actions speak loudest against Trump’s assertion of Russian power. Germany, despite Russia being one of its largest trading partners, was the main driver behind the formation of EU sanctions when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and aided and abetted separatists in Ukraine.

    Last edited by Voland; 10-27-2018, 08:38 AM.

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