According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Washington is forming a coalition to prevent the completion of Nord Stream 2. The US is frenetically campaigning for European countries to impose additional sanctions on Russia and stop the gas pipeline project, just days before European Union political leaders are due to meet for a major summit.
Apart from long running claims that the Nord Stream 2 project poses a threat to Europe’s energy security, Pompeo is citing the alleged Navalny poisoning as another reason to impose sanctions on Russia and halt construction of the gas pipeline, which has almost been completed.
Some Western governments and media outlets are claiming that the Russian government has used Novichok, a toxic nerve agent, to poison political opposition personality Alexei Navalny, following on from earlier accusations that another critic of the Russian government, Sergei Skripal, was also poisoned.
Both survived the alleged assassination attempts. An investigation of the alleged poisoning has barely begun and the claims of those involved have changed several times as they try to construct a credible narrative. Meanwhile, Western media outlets continue to allege that he was poisoned by Russian agents. On 20 September an article at Modern Diplomacy stated:
As expected, Alexei Navalny’s case is seriously tearing apart relationship between European Union and Russian Federation. The alleged “poisoning” of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on August 20 in Tomsk (Siberia), has similarities to the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, and that of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK’s intelligence services, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, in the city of Salisbury, England. LINK
However, another article at the same outlet notes some of the numerous anomalies in the evolving narrative, concluding:
Many Russian media outlets, in particular the independent newspaper Kommersant, give an almost minute-by-minute chronology of what happened after the plane with Navalny on board was landed at the Omsk airport. The public figure was promptly taken to the toxicology department of the local hospital and his treatment and examination began. Tellingly, literally within 24 hours, at the request of Navalny’s relatives and supporters, he was allowed to be taken to Germany for treatment. In a pandemic, urgent approval of such a procedure seems almost unrealistic, of course, the permission had to be agreed at the very top. However, the next morning, a German resuscitation plane, paid for by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, landed at the Omsk airport to take Navalny away a day later. At the same time, many questions arose about the efficiency of German doctors. So, according to Kommersant, upon arrival in Omsk, they refused to go to the hospital to examine the patient, and instead went to rest at the hotel? Only four hours after their arrival, they agreed to the offer of their Russian colleagues to conduct a joint inspection, and then returned to the hotel, because they agreed that it was inexpedient to transport Mr. Navalny. As a result, transportation was postponed for almost a day, including due to the requirements of the German trade unions for pilots to rest, although the Russian side expressed its readiness to speed up the flight. It turns out that almost 20 hours passed between the time the brigade arrived in Omsk and the time it flew to Germany with Navalny…
Considering the history of the Skripal poisoning and the general course towards tightening the sanctions belt around Russia, it seems that the Kremlin has fallen into a kind of trap. Leaving Navalny in Russia would mean getting charged with concealing information about his poisoning. Letting him to go in Germany means that Moscow is unable to fully receive information about research into the causes of poisoning. What can the long silence of German doctors mean? Is the examination difficult or they are waiting for instructions on the final diagnosis? One thing is clear, no matter how the situation turned alive and well, Navalny was much less dangerous to the Kremlin than lying in a coma and repeating the fate of Litvinenko and Skripal. And Moscow could not fail to understand this. LINK
Initially, Navalny claimed he had been poisoned after drinking a cup of tea at the airport. But now it’s claimed that he was poisoned by a water bottle from his hotel room. LINK
Late last week the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting an international probe into the Navalny incident. The political manoeuvre followed comments by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who supported calls for the imposition of a new set of sanctions on Russia.
The campaign for additional sanctions against Russia before any actual investigation has been completed into the poisoning claims, much less an investigation of who might have been the perpetrators, clearly shows that Brussels is not interested in establishing the truth but is instead seeking a pretext to further damage relations between Europe and Russia, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Russia’s permanent representative to the EU, Aleksey Chizhov, said the resolution appeared to be extremely rushed and contained some elemental factual mistakes. Squarely calling the Navalny affair a “poisoning” shows the EU is trying to blame Russia for the incident instead of finding out what exactly happened, the diplomat said, adding that “Russia will find a way to retaliate if the EU decides to implement sanctions.” LINK
The resolution passed on Thursday called on European Union member states to “continue to isolate Russia in international forums,” encouraging the European Council “to prioritize the approval of the EU Magnitsky-style human rights sanctions” against what it called “the Russian regime.”
532 MEPs voted for the resolution, 84 were against and 72 abstained. A total of 688 out of the registered 705 MEPs took part in the voting. The resolution is advisory in nature and not legally binding, intended to provide policy recommendations for EU governments.
In addition to damaging Europe-Russia relations generally, it now appears that the main objective of the allegations surrounding the incident is to use it as a pretext to block the completion and commissioning of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline, as the European Parliament resolution also reiterated its “previous position to halt the Nord Stream 2 project.” LINK
Although Germany is resisting demands that it cancel the project, the US has been orchestrated a campaign against the project’s completion for several years and imposing increasingly onerous punitive measures against companies involved in the project.
In an interview early this week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again urged European countries to impose additional sanctions on Russia, and commented that the US is trying to form a coalition of countries to coordinate the punitive measures. The United States imposed sanctions against the project in December 2019, demanding that all companies involved in the project stop construction immediately. The sanctions were amplified earlier this year.
In an interview with Bild, Pompeo repeated Washington’s claims that the gas pipeline creates economic and security risks for Europe, as it becomes dependent on Russian gas, as well as threatening Ukraine, and further asserted that this “deeply worries many Germans.”
During the interview Pompeo stated: “We hope that the construction of the Nord stream 2 will not be completed, we are working to make sure that a coalition will be created to prevent this. We hope that the German government will come to the same conclusion, because of what happened with Navalny, or because of the real consequences for security, due to dependence on Russian gas.” LINK
Russian energy giant Gazprom is the sole shareholder of Nord Stream 2 AG. European partners-Royal Dutch Shell, OMV, Engie, Uniper, and Wintershall-collectively are financing 50% of the project.
Several European countries have also been opposed to the project for some time:
The U.S., several European countries, including the Baltic states and Poland, as well as the European Union (EU), have expressed concern about Russia using gas sales and its gas monopoly Gazprom as a political tool.
The US and its collaborators in the campaign to block Nord Stream II (and instead supply Europe with much more expensive gas from the US) have also been recruiting support from opposition groups in countries that have not joined their campaign. The supposedly isolated events and incidents are converging just as EU leaders are due to hold a summit on 24-25 September which could be crucial to the prospects of the Nord Stream 2 project in the immediate future.
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