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LIKE vinyl records and popped collars, rows between the United States and Europe over Russian energy are making a comeback. In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan’s attempts to thwart a Soviet pipeline that would bring Siberian gas to Europe irritated the West Germans and drove the French to proclaim the end of the transatlantic alliance. The cast of characters has shifted a little today, but many of the arguments are the same. In Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a proposed Russian gas pipeline, Germany sees a respectable project that will cut energy costs and lock in secure supplies. American politicians (and the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe) detect a Kremlin plot to deepen Europe’s addiction to cheap Russian gas. They decry German spinelessness.
NS2, which its backers hope will come online at the end of 2019, would supply gas directly from Russia’s Baltic coast to the German port of Greifswald, doubling the capacity of Nord Stream 1, an existing line. Its defenders, including a consortium of five European firms that will cover half its cost of €9.5bn ($10.6bn), say that it will help plug a projected gap between Europe’s stable demand for gas and declining production in the Netherlands and North Sea. Germany’s government, especially the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the junior coalition partner, shares this view. (Gerhard Schröder, a former SPD chancellor of Germany, chairs NS2’s board.) Some Germans quietly hope that NS2 could transform their country into a European energy hub.
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Such arguments strike sceptics—countries like Poland and the Baltic states, energy experts at the European Commission, foreign-policy hawks and a handful of German renegades—as myopic. NS2, they say, might lower fees for Germans but raises them for eastern Europeans further down the chain. It undermines the European Union’s stated aim...
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