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Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

Volume 690: debated on Wednesday 10 March 2021

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Scott Mann.)

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a gas pipeline being constructed on the bottom of the Baltic sea between Russia and Germany. It is bypassing all of our allies in central and eastern Europe, fellow NATO partners that have in the past been put under the most extraordinary pressure by the Russians over energy supplies. That is why I am so concerned about this project for the security of NATO and our responsibilities to our allies in central and eastern Europe.

Although it is not possible for many Members of Parliament to be in the Chamber this evening, we have written to the Prime Minister in the past. Over 35 Conservative Members of Parliament have co-signed a letter on this issue to the Prime Minister, and there are many more in other parties who also have grave concerns about this project.

I can understand why, during the Brexit negotiations and indeed when we were negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union, this Government may have expressed a certain amount of caution on this issue. Taking into consideration the extraordinary power of Germany within the European Union and the extraordinary power that Germany has over the European Commission, it may not have been wise for the United Kingdom at that juncture to follow our American partners and others in agitating on this issue.

Nevertheless, that time has now passed, and we are now an independent sovereign nation state. We are also a permanent member of the UN Security Council—a privilege peculiar to only five countries in the world—as well as the fifth largest economy in the world and arguably the strongest military power on our continent. With those extraordinary privileges and attributes for Britain come extraordinary responsibility, and that is why I believe this Government must now take a lead on our continent in having this project stopped.

The project is a threat to NATO security and cohesion. Now, with North Macedonia joining our alliance, we have 30 members of this most successful military alliance. I think it is like being a member of a special club with a gold American Express card. This is one of the most successful military alliances in the world, but we do not just have responsibility in protecting our fellow NATO members from invasion; we also have a duty of care, in the letter and the spirit of our obligations under NATO, to ensure that our NATO partners in central and eastern Europe are not blackmailed and intimidated by the Russians over energy supplies. The Americans understand this. They understand the great threat to NATO, but also to the continent of Europe, in allowing this project to come to fruition. It is very close to completion, but it still can be stopped.

I know there are many here who do not particularly respect former President Trump, but he said the wisest thing that I have heard so far when he sat at a table with the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and said to them, “You expect us to send troops to Poland and the Baltic states, and to protect you. You expect us to spend hundreds of billions of pounds every decade in protecting your continent, yet you—the Secretary-General of NATO—are allowing one NATO partner,” namely Germany, “to, for its own reasons, create this direct link with Russia, giving the Russians an umbilical cord for the export of their gas.” We have all heard about the terrible trouble the Russian economy is in already. This is an umbilical cord from the heart of Europe to Russia, giving it the extraordinary opportunity of not only exporting to Europe, but putting our NATO allies under threat.

I will just make a couple of extra points, and then I will give way.

Following President Trump, we now have President Biden, who has appointed as his deputy Secretary of State —one of the most powerful positions in Washington—a lady called Wendy Sherman. In the Senate nomination hearings, when she was being assessed by the other Senators, she said that the Biden Administration would do

“whatever is lawful to stop the pipeline”.

The Americans are our closest security and military partners, and as a fellow permanent member of the UN Security Council, if they are prepared to take the lead on our continent on this hugely strategically important issue, we must join them. I have written to Senator Ted Cruz from Texas this week, who is the leading proponent in the American Senate of stopping this project. He and 40 other Republican Senators have written to the President, calling for the Americans to implement sanctions against any company and any individual involved in this project. The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, Bob Menendez, a Democrat, has also spoken against this project.

I just want to say one thing before I take interventions. As an independent sovereign nation with an ability to influence our continent now in an unprecedented way, unfettered by the communal constraints of the European Union, if we now join the Americans as two permanent members of the UN Security Council, I think we could possibly stop this project. So many companies involved in the construction of this pipeline, whether Swiss companies or others, are so frightened of the prospect of sanctions against them that they are likely to pull out of the project, and this project will be stopped. Britain is at the forefront in this see-saw between Germany and Russia, and many of our NATO partners in central and eastern Europe and the Americans. It will be Britain that ultimately decides which side of this extraordinary debate wins out and guarantees the security of our NATO partners.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having brought this issue forward: this is the place for these decisions to be debated. The foreign policy issues surrounding Nord Stream are deep and complex, as he has referred to. I fully agree that we must be wary of reliance on unreliable states. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the recent reports of state-sponsored attacks on protesters in Russia are a sobering reminder, if one is needed, that there is more of a cost to be paid from being in thrall to Russia than money?

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman, and will talk about some of the extraordinary behaviour of Russia in its own neighbourhood and domestically within its own jurisdiction, and how it is undermining and subverting democracy in its own country.

When I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee I called for dialogue with the Russians. I still stand by that. I think we have to talk to these people, but we have to do so from a position of strength. Giving them this umbilical cord to the heart of Europe undermines that negotiating position. One thing we know about the Russians was taught to us by Reagan and Thatcher—Thatcher invited Gorbachev to Chequers in December 1984, the first western leader to invite him for discussions. They taught us that we can only negotiate with those people from a position of strength. Divided among us, they will eat us for breakfast.

I agree with every word the hon. Gentleman has said in the debate and I congratulate him on securing it. It is a geostrategic mistake for Germany to encourage this, and we need to get the French on board. If we have three out of the five Security Council members, that is an even stronger position. I am anxious that the UK Government seem to be going a bit quiet on this issue, as they have on the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, which is yet another flagrant abuse of human rights in Russia.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention and agree with every word that he has said. Later in my speech, I will chide my own Government. They have been almost mute on this issue, and that position does not reflect the urgency of the situation and the responsibility that our country has.

Countries in central and eastern Europe are not just leaving this all to us to deal with. They have created the Three Seas initiative; 12 countries, all of whom are members of the European Union, and all of whom are members of NATO—apart from Austria. It is a regional, relatively homogeneous bloc. The 12 member countries are on the frontline with Russia. My office and I have spent the past few weeks interviewing all the ambassadors from these 12 countries. We have interviewed 10 out of 12 so far, and we will be writing a report for Members of Parliament about the initiative. These countries are trying to create strategic investments across the whole bloc to safeguard individual members from undue Russian pressure.

The strategic problem is this, is it not? By putting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline straight into Germany, Germany can guarantee its gas supplies from Russia. On the other hand, these countries in eastern Europe—the Three Seas, as it were—could be blackmailed by Russia and picked off from the rest of NATO. That is the strategic problem with Nord Stream 2.

My hon. Friend, who is such an excellent speaker with so much experience in military matters, has managed in a few words to sum up the whole situation more succinctly than I could in half an hour. I am grateful to him.

Poland and Croatia have been the instigators of the Three Seas initiative. Both countries have built liquified gas terminals on their coastlines. The whole thing about the Three Seas initiative is that the investments seek to create additional pipelines so that more of this liquified gas can be sent inland to landlocked neighbours and NATO partners. Poland is also buying a huge amount of liquified gas from America and from Norway, and has invested billions of dollars in its liquified gas terminal at Świnoujście on the Baltic coast—I would like to see Hansard deal with the spelling of that. I shall help them with the spelling of Świnoujście. Is that not an amazing example, Mr Deputy Speaker? If a country is a member of NATO, that exclusive club or organisation that has not lost a square inch of territory since its inception 70 years ago, surely the next step should be to do as Poland is doing, which is to buy gas from America or Norway, even if it costs a little bit more, so that it is not dependent on Russian gas supplies.

I would like the Minister to give me an assurance that the Foreign Office is working hand in glove with the Department for International Trade to assess what opportunities there are for British companies to participate in the construction of these pipelines within the Three Seas jurisdiction, and to assist and invest in these liquified gas terminals on the coastlines of the Adriatic sea, the Black Sea and the Baltic sea so that we have some of the greatest energy companies in the world. That is important not only for British strategic and financial interests, but in helping our fellow NATO partners in central and eastern Europe.

I wonder what reasons Germany has given, at least publicly, for its behaviour, given the overwhelming case against Nord Stream 2 outlined by my hon. Friend. I cannot help being put in mind of that famous quotation, which may or may not have correctly been attributed to Lenin, that the west and the capitalists

“will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

I could not have put the situation better. Germany, in a rather peculiar statement the other day, did not really explain why it is building this pipeline. Clearly, it is a stitch-up between the Russians and the Germans. They do not want to rely on the transportation of gas through Belarus, Ukraine or Poland—countries that the Russians have problems with. Russia does not want to rely on exporting its main commodity through those countries; it wants to have a direct link under the sea, so that Germany, irrespective of its obligations to NATO, can have that direct access to Russian gas.

I will not give way for the moment.

It is a very selfish act on Germany’s part and inconsistent with NATO membership. The Germans have also said that it is something to do with their obligations to Russia in terms of reparations from the second world war. They need to help the Russians with the construction of this pipeline out of some sense of duty over war reparations. If that is the case, Poland is still waiting for its war reparations 80 years on.

I am very grateful to have secured this Adjournment debate, but it should not be for me, a Back-Bench Tory MP, to raise this issue. It should be the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary explaining the threat of this project to our electorate. I suspect that, if most of us went back to our constituencies and started talking about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, not many people would be cognisant of it. It should be the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary who are leading the way in explaining to our citizens the threat that this project poses to our allies and, ultimately, to us. One thing that we have learned from history is that if there is instability in central and eastern Europe—if these countries are threatened, blackmailed or invaded—which country always get sucked into it? It is the United Kingdom. We have seen too much instability on our continent to allow Britain to be sucked into that. We need a statement from the British Government that we will implement sanctions on every company and individual involved in this project and it must start with the former German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, who was earning an eye-watering salary at the very pinnacle of this organisation—

Yes, Gazprom, as my right hon. Friend says.

Germany is behaving in a selfish and dangerous way and in a way that is incompatible with its responsibilities to NATO. As I have also said, let us talk to the Russians, but let us do it from a position of strength.

We have all seen—the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has been one of the most vocal on this—the outrageous behaviour of the Russians within the neighbourhood, whether in Georgia, the butchery that took place in South Ossetia, in Ukraine, or the ongoing deliberate violation of the Baltic states’ maritime and airspace. I went to Ukraine when I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee. We went to Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. I have never seen anything like it in my 15 years as a Member of Parliament. It was like being on the face of the moon. Everything was destroyed. Nothing was left standing. It was a wasteland. We on the Foreign Affairs Committee saw what the Russians are capable of in Ukraine.

The two countries that this pipeline will violate most are indeed Ukraine and Belarus. The Government are trumpeting their agreement with the Ukrainians on the Government website, saying just this month,

“UK and Ukraine sign Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership”.

“A strategic partnership” with Ukraine—there is a photograph of the Prime Minister with the President of Ukraine signing the agreement, and it says:

“UK cooperation in political, security and foreign matters with Ukraine”.

How can we sign a strategic partnership with the Ukrainians while at the same time kicking the chair from underneath them, by allowing the one last power that they have over the Russians—the fact that they have to export their gas from Ukraine—not to happen? This agreement it is not going to be worth the paper it is written on, if this project is allowed to come to a conclusion.

In a second.

Let me turn to Belarus. We have all seen on our television screens the brave young men and women fighting against the brutal dictator in Minsk. A few years ago, I went on a parliamentary delegation to Minsk, where I saw at first hand how this brutal authoritarian regime suppresses its own people. But one day, Lukashenko will be gone and this will be a new, independent, sovereign fledgling state. Can hon. Members imagine in two, three, four or five years’ time—whenever it is—when the democratic Government of Belarus are seeking finally to join the rest of Europe as a sovereign state, what position they will be in if this gas does not have to go through their country and just goes straight to Germany under the sea? It will be the greatest impediment to the democratisation of Belarus, and we have a duty and responsibility to that country as a fellow European partner.

I must now conclude. By allowing this pipeline, we not only betray our NATO allies; we empower Russia in an unprecedented way to manipulate Belarus and Ukraine. I look forward to the Minister’s response to my genuine fears and the fears of many colleagues from across the House.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for securing this debate, and for his ongoing work on European energy security, including as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Poland. I am also grateful for the contributions to this debate that he and other hon. Members have made this evening. In the time I have, I will try to respond to all the points raised.

The resumption of construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline after a one-year hiatus has understandably rekindled interests in this project. As many hon. Members are aware, the UK Government have repeatedly aired our significant concerns about Nord Stream 2, its implications for European energy security, and its impact on Ukraine and other transit countries. When complete, Nord Stream 2 will double the Russian gas capacity flowing directly into Germany. Alongside the southern TurkStream route, this will largely replace the need for Russian gas to transit Ukraine.

The Government’s concerns about the pipeline are a matter of public record, and we continue to raise them publicly and in private with key allies. It is important to reiterate that Nord Stream 2 would not affect the UK’s gas supply. The UK gas market is one of the most liquid and developed in the world and our gas comes from diverse and reliable sources. Most of the gas that we use comes from our own production and reliable suppliers such as Norway. We receive a small amount of liquefied natural gas from Russia, but last year it accounted for less than 3% of our total gas supply.

Although Nord Stream 2 would not directly impact on our energy security, it could have serious implications for central and eastern European countries. Last year, around one third of European gas came via Russian gas pipelines. Some European countries are nearly wholly dependent on Russian gas. This reliance on a single source raises serious concerns about energy security. Furthermore, we do not believe that Nord Stream 2 is necessary to meet future European gas demand. There is sufficient existing pipeline infrastructure, including through Ukraine and Poland, for Russia to meet its European supply commitments.

There are also big questions about the need for Nord Stream 2 in a decarbonised future. Although the UK and European countries will continue to need natural gas for years to come, we are increasingly using energy from renewable sources, and we need to work to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the entire energy system in order to meet our net zero targets.

As I have said, the potential impact of Nord Stream 2 on Ukraine is particularly worrying. Ukraine hosts the largest existing pipeline network for Russian gas, and transit fees have historically made up a significant proportion of Ukraine’s GDP. Nord Stream 2 would divert supplies away from Ukraine, with significant consequences for its economy. It could also have significant security implications. The transit of Russian gas through Ukraine is regarded as a deterrent against further Russian aggression, so is a vital part of Ukraine’s national security.

I am going to continue as I am conscious that I do not have much time. If I have time at the end, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman.

It is positive that Naftogaz and Gazprom signed a gas-transit agreement at the end of 2019—it helped to avoid disruption at the time—and we welcome the role that Germany and the EU played in facilitating the negotiations. However, that agreement provides certainty only through to 2024; after that, there is greater uncertainty.

I reiterate the UK Government’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to Ukraine. We are one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters and are providing political and practical support to strengthen its sovereignty and resilience. On energy specifically, we are helping Ukraine to reform its energy market, working closely with the Ministry of Energy and the Ukrainian regulator.

I know that some ask whether the UK could be doing more to oppose Nord Stream 2, and my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham has put forward some interesting proposals. The UK welcomes the efforts of the three seas initiative to promote co-operation and development across central and eastern Europe, and we are open to the possibility of expanding the UK’s interaction with that group. I reassure Members that we will continue to share our concerns about Nord Stream 2 with key partners. It is our strong belief that we should be working to reduce reliance on any single gas supplier, and the dependency and leverage that can come with it. To counteract the risks associated with Nord Stream 2, it is essential that European countries diversify their energy supplies.

I was glad to visit Poland in October last year to discuss the need for energy transformation and a just transition, including with a business audience at the Wrocław energy congress. Since that time, Poland has proposed an ambitious energy plan and agreed on the EU’s target of at least a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030. We will continue to work with it to achieve ambitious climate and energy goals. However, with regard to Nord Stream 2, it is also important to recognise Germany’s sovereign right to formulate its own energy policy. Nord Stream 2 is highly contentious, but we would not want the debate over it to risk undermining the co-ordinated response by allies to wider Russian malign activity.

I fully recognise the legitimate concerns that hon. Members have raised today. Nord Stream 2 poses a threat to European energy security and the interests of existing transit countries. At a time when Europe should be diversifying and decarbonising its energy supplies, Nord Stream 2 risks entrenching European dependency on Russian gas for decades to come, increasing Russia’s ability to use energy as a political tool. For these reasons, the UK remains opposed to the pipeline and we will continue to raise our concerns with key partners. We will also continue to support initiatives that strengthen and diversify the European energy market.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.