US and Poland oppose Russian gas pipe
The US and Poland have taken a common stand against a gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, saying it is politicising energy and undercutting moves to make Europe less dependent on Russian resources.
Nord Stream 2 would bypass Poland and leave Central Europe vulnerable to Russian pressure, the Poles claim.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking in Warsaw alongside the Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said the pipeline was “not a healthy piece of infrastructure” for European energy security.
The US is backing up its robust rhetoric on energy supplies with military hardware.
The pair also pledged to boost military cooperation, while around 5,000 US troops were deployed to Poland last year.
“The stationing of American troops on our territory gives us, the Poles, a sense of security, and we are grateful for that,” Czaputowicz said in Warsaw. “We want this presence to be even bigger and we want it to be permanent.”
A 1990s deal between the US under Bill Clinton and then Russian leader Boris Yeltsin agreed that there would be no permanent US bases in the three Baltic states and Poland, former Warsaw Pact members that had joined Nato.
Warsaw has repeatedly tried to block Nord Stream 2, saying it would leave it and Ukraine exposed if Russia decided to shut down the pipelines running across its territory towards western Europe.
“Like Poland, the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” Tillerson told the media. “We see it as undermining Europe’s overall energy security and stability and providing Russia yet another tool to politicise energy as a political tool.”
Tillerson says he is in favour of increasing links in the energy network between the Baltic and Adriatic seas.
Tillerson also met the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party’s shadowy leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who holds no official post due to low popularity ratings but is probably Poland’s most powerful politician.
He also said the US would maintain support for Polish plans to build a gas pipeline through the North Sea together with Denmark.
The pipeline, being built by Russian gas giant Gazprom, would be the second to carry Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea instead of through Poland and Ukraine.
The German energy giants Uniper and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV, British-Dutch Shell and France’s Engie have all provided financial support for the 1,225-km pipeline.
Poland fears Russian intentions with the pipeline and “we share the view that it is necessary to diversify energy supplies into Europe”, Czaputowicz told the joint press conference.
Russia still provides two-thirds of Poland’s gas supply but the Central European nation began importing liquid natural gas (LNG) from the US last year. Tillerson encouraged further sales and a pipeline project from Norway to Poland.
US paratroopers in Poland. Picture credit: Flickr