Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline system is much more than a natural gas project—it allows Russia to advance its geopolitical influence and should be followed closely by Ottawa, says Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada.
“Canada is an important player … in the energy market, and if Canada is serious about the future of this market, obviously Canada should take very seriously what is happening in Europe,” Andriy Shevchenko told The Epoch Times.
“I think Russia is trying to set up the scene for the next several decades, and that means that Canada has a very pragmatic reason to follow the situation and to have a strong position on this, because of the economic consequences of this project happening.”
Nord Stream projects have been opposed by the United States and several European countries because of concerns Russia would use the pipelines to increase its influence in Europe.
“Russia wants to see European nations dependent on Russian oil and natural gas, dependent on Russian sources of energy, and Russia wants to split Europe. … Nord Stream 2 can help them to achieve both of those goals,” Shevchenko said.
Nord Stream 2, construction of which is expected to be completed this month, made the news again in recent weeks after the Biden administration waived some of the sanctions on the project put in place by the previous administration.
In December 2019, U.S. Congress and then-president Donald Trump sanctioned the construction of the US$10.5 billion pipeline. The sanctions were part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which aimed to “minimize the ability” of Russia to use Nord Stream 2 as a “tool of coercion and political leverage” and to stop Russia from shifting energy exports from Ukraine to other countries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Axios on June 4 that he was disappointed by the Biden administration’s decision to waive the sanctions on the pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
“This is a weapon, a real weapon … in the hands of the Russian Federation,” he said. “It is not very understandable … that the bullets to this weapon can possibly be provided by such a great country as the United States.”
Biden assured Zelensky in a phone call on June 7 that he will “stand up firmly” for Ukraine’s sovereignty during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16. He affirmed the United States’ “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” in the face of ongoing Russian aggression in Donbas and Crimea, according to a White House statement.
Ambassador Shevchenko said his government views Nord Stream 2, which runs parallel to Nord Stream 1 and doubles its capacity, “as a tool for further Russian destructive and aggressive activities in Europe.”
Russia’s Military Buildup a ‘Multi-Layer Operation’
Those aggressive activities include several military options being considered by Russia as it continues a massive troop buildup near its western border with Ukraine, Shevchenko says.
“Among those options is further aggression in the northeast of the country,” he said.
“That’s where we see a lot of the Russian troops along the Ukrainian border, or the area of Mariupol [near] the coast of the Sea of Azov. And that direction is important for the Russians because they have been talking for quite a long time about creating this land bridge between the Russian Federation and the occupied Crimea along the coastline.”
Shevchenko said the Russian military buildup is a “multi-layer operation.” It spontaneously seeks to expand occupation to Donbass, a key economic region in southeast Ukraine; increase activities in European air zones; build up the Russian military presence in the Arctic; and conduct cyberattacks in North America.
“We see their major strategic and long-term goal, which is to undermine the existing international order, which is to challenge the West, which is to challenge the free world,” he said.
Ukraine as ‘NATO’s De Facto Eastern Flank’
Shevchenko said Ukraine is looking forward to the NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, where members will discuss strategic deterrence against Russia’s aggressions.
“The alliance will take a very serious look at the next 10 years, and we expect Ukraine and Russia to be a major part of the conversation,” he said. “I think it is very important for NATO to recognize Russia as a key threat in the next 10 years of planning for the alliance.”
The ambassador said it would be a mistake for NATO to “try to get Russia on our side in order to deal properly with China,” noting that this would “be an invitation for other hostile and aggressive nations to go ahead in their attempts to destabilize the world order.”
He said Ukraine wants NATO to make use of his country’s defence and intelligence capabilities, experience, and soft power across the region.
“Ukraine already sees itself as NATO’s de facto eastern flank. We fight Russian aggression on behalf of NATO, on behalf of the free world, on behalf of a free Europe,” he said.