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Russia’s pipeline gambit could upend NATO response to Ukraine invasion

Mar 29, 2022

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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As Russia and Ukraine prepare for negotiations that the world hopes could bring an end to the month of intense violence in Eastern Europe, the country hosting the negotiations, Turkey, could soon play a key role in Vladimir Putin‘s chess game against NATO. The Turks and Germany could play huge roles in whatever NATO delivers as a response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, as both are dependent on Russian energy. The Germans have been hesitant to jump on the economic sanctions bandwagon against Moscow because their country would be in dire straits without Russian oil being pumped into the country.

Putin is aware of this, and he also knows that he has two natural gas pipelines that run below the sea into Turkey and Germany which give him tremendous leverage as he tries to avoid NATO sanctions that could further cripple the Russian economy. And he could give those two nations an ultimatum.

So if we’re entering a world where something like 4 million barrels of Russian oil goes offline and something like 7 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas goes offline, but the Russians can go to the Turks and the Germans and say very clearly and very specifically that we can keep your lights on and only your lights, but in exchange, you have to pull out of the NATO alliance that is opposing us in Ukraine. 

Will it work? I don’t know. I give it a 50-50 chance. If you had asked me the day before the war, I would’ve said a hundred percent it was gonna work. But the Germans are in play for the first time in 75 years.

If it happens, it would kneecap NATO and would mean the Ukraine war will not come to an end anytime soon.

Hey everyone. Hello from Colorado where it’s 50 degrees and we just got a half a foot of snow because you know, Colorado. Today I wanted to talk about the next chapter of negotiations between the Russians and the world. It’s going to involve the Turks and the Germans specifically. Now the war in Ukraine began about a month ago there was this lightning shift in Berlin that upended 75 years of an attempt to make nice with the Russians. 

And if you look back through Russian -German history, this is just part of the pattern. The, Germans trying to find a way to work with the Russian, it falls apart and there’s conflict. And then that falls apart and they try to make nice. And then that falls apart and there’s another conflict, and over and over and over again. The Germans are wow, changing their mind on the things very quickly.

So on day three of the war, they doubled their defense budget, which is, you know, impressive. But now the Germans are once again the laggards, saying when it comes to sanctions, quite accurately that… if they were to cut their dependence on Russian crude overnight, that their economy would collapse. And they’re probably right. 

So instead of getting energy sanctions on a firm level, everyone is starting to beat the Germans about the head and shoulders and try to get them to go back to where they were just a couple of weeks ago. This is going to continue and the Russians are gonna do everything they can to take advantage of that situation. Now, whether it’s because of insurance, indemnification, fallthroughs or dock workers or ship captains refusing to work with Russian  cargo or because of sanctions or because of boycotts, it doesn’t matter what happens. Maybe partisan activity…

 All of the piped energy that goes to Europe, including to Germany, is going to be disrupted in the next few months. But there are a pair of pipelines known as Blue Stream, which goes to Turkey and Nordstream, which goes to Germany. They’re natural gas pipelines, and they go under the sea directly to their consuming countries. So the Russians know that these will not be disrupted by anything shy of sanctions from Germany and Turkey specifically. 

So if we’re entering a world where something like 4 million barrels of Russian oil goes offline and something like 7 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas goes offline, but the Russians can go to the Turks and the Germans and say very clearly and very specifically that we can keep your lights on and only your lights, but in exchange, you have to pull out of the NATO Alliance that is opposing us in Ukraine. 

Will it work? I don’t know. I give it a 50-50 chance. If you had asked me the day before the war, I would’ve said a hundred percent it was gonna work. But the Germans are in play for the first time in 75

Years.

Whether that’s comfortable or not, of course all depends upon your read of history and what part of the world you happen to be in. 

But this is the next big crisis for the war, for the western alliance and for the outcome of where Turkey and Germany fall. Because if Turkey and Germany refused to participate in actions against the Russians in Ukraine, then NATO doesn’t function because you take the two single biggest countries in the European theater out of the alliance and turn them from empowering Western intervention to stopping it…and the Russians can do with Ukraine as they will. All right, that’s it for me until next time, take care.

 

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