Germany: Insider addresses how Laschet and Biden will get on
The government offered former US President financial support of up to €1billion (£875million) in a bid to prevent Washington from imposing sanctions on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, according to documents published by the non-profit Environmental Action Germany (DUH). The pipeline, which is nearing completion, would double the amount of natural gas delivered annually from Russia to Germany. According to a document, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz offered the funds for the import of US liquefied natural gas in a personal letter addressed to his then-counterpart Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
It was dated August 7, 2020, and included the offer in an attached “non-paper”.
Sascha Mueller-Kraenner, the DUH executive director, described the move as a a “scandal” and as a “dirty deal at the expense of third parties”.
According to the paper, the government offered to invest in developing LNG terminals in Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbuettel on Germany’s North Sea coastline. In return, the US was reportedly asked to permit the “unhindered construction and operation of Nord Stream 2”.
The pipeline is intended to carry 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from to Germany, but work was halted in December 2020 following the threat of sanctions from Washington.
The US and several European countries have said the pipeline will increase ‘s energy dependence on Russia, bypass Ukraine, and deny Kiev a lucrative source of transit revenue.
In a recent report, the head of Oxford-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau argued that what “all this is telling us is that Germany is desperate, very desperate, to commission Nord Stream 2” and that “the coalition will go to great lengths to make it happen”.
One of the reasons behind this desperation, Mr Munchau noted, might be the fear of having to deal with an “energy emergency”.
He explained: “Tagesschau [a German news show] is reporting that if the project were cancelled, Russia would retaliate by reducing existing exports of oil and gas to Germany, which would trigger an immediate energy emergency.
“You do not want the lights to go off in an election year.
“The vaccine procurement delays al, and the country is suddenly open to blackmail.
“What sounds like science fiction is the core argument of the opponents of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – Germany is making itself more and more dependent on Russian gas.
“The dispute is about an energy source, whose consumption has risen significantly again after a brief dip at the beginning of the decade.”
The warning comes as the vaccine fiasco and the second wave of coronavirus infections are causing havoc in Germany.
Chief economist at the Centre for European Reform Christian Odendahl recently wrote on , attaching a picture of a survey by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Approval rating of Merkel‘s government is in free fall, on the back of the vaccine disaster and mishandling of the second wave.”
The graph shows that only 49 percent of voters now believe Mrs Merkel’s government is doing a good job at handling the crisis.
On the other hand, 42 percent of voters are critical – up from 15 percent in August.
Mr Odendahl added on Twitter: “This is not bad news just for Jens Spahn [the German Health Minister].
“The state Prime Ministers are in charge of the lockdowns etc, so Laschet, Söder et al equally under fire.”
Armin Laschet was appointed new federal chairman of ‘s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) at the beginning of January.
He was elected in a runoff against conservative Friedrich Merz by 521 votes to 466, to resolve a three-way contest that also featured outsider Norbert Röttgen.
Among the three candidates, Mr Laschet, who since 2017 has been the premier of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, is the one who stands most strongly for a continuation of Angela Merkel’s course and a “CDU of the centre”.
In his victory speech, Mr Laschet promised to fight for the party to do well in upcoming regional elections and to keep hold of the position of Chancellor.
However, the latest approval ratings of the German government and the Nord Stream 2 controversy show the leader of the CDU has a long way to go yet.