This article originally appeared in the Polish weekly magazine Myśl Polska. You can find the original text (in Polish) here.
It is perfectly visible today that Polish energy policy (and not only) is the implementation of American strategy towards Europe and Russia. And this is why it ignores Polish true national interests so badly.
Looking at Donald Trump’s actions, one would be excused for getting the impression that Washington’s policies are have a distinct “divide and rule” imperial element to them. The risk for Poland is that she could find herself in the situation of the Kurds, used until its serves someone else’s purposes and then abandoned on the battlefield.
America has been controlling Western Europe since the end of World War II, and the supply of energy resources, which are the basis of strategic ties with “allies”, is crucial for the sustainability of this alliance, in which the US plays the role of the elder or big brother. As Ronald Reagan put it, “Europe’s too strong ties with the Soviet Union do not serve the North Atlantic Alliance.”
“Energy dependence” was regarded as a cause of weakening for NATO, and there was widespread fear that by cutting off gas supplies, Russia could destabilize Europe. In essence, however, the issue here is about too strong economic and political ties, increasing the maneuver of the “younger partners” in the Alliance and weakening America’s dominance.
At the end of the 70s of the last century, Western Europe started to import more and more gas from the Soviet Union, and as the needs grew, Germany and France (later Italy joined) negotiated larger volumes of gas with the USSR and in November 1981 signed the agreement. The construction of a huge gas pipeline was planned – 4,650 kilometers of pipes from the Urengo fields in West Siberia to Uzhgorod and further through Czechoslovakia to Germany, which was to cost $ 22 billion, supplying 40 billion m3 of gas annually.
In December, President Reagan reacted violently to this contract. In the report that the CIA redacted for him, such a connection was assessed as a threat to the US, because “the Soviet Union counts in the future on the increased dependence of Western Europe on gas supplies from the USSR, which will make it more vulnerable to Soviet blackmail and will become a constant factor in East – West relations”. “The USSR used the pipeline to create and play divisions between Western Europe and the US […] and hopes that the pipeline’s success will reduce Europeans’ desire to support future US economic sanctions against the USSR,” the CIA wrote at the time. As you can see, since 1982 little has changed in geopolitical calculations.
President Reagan announced an embargo – he banned American and European companies from participating in the construction of the pipeline. The climate for sanctions was good, on December 13, 1981, it served as an excuse for sanctions, but the real goal was to block Soviet gas supplies to the West and cut off the USSR from hard currency. Washington was pressing Europe not to buy gas from Russia, and above all not to sell steel pipes and compressors that would allow gas to be sent from Siberia to Germany. Representatives of the State Department came to Europe to convince two ideas to compensate for the loss of Siberian gas: US coal imports and the development of gas production in Norway.
Europeans, however, including Margaret Thatcher, said no. And despite the Cold War, despite the missiles with nuclear warheads on the borders – in November 1982 the embargo was lifted. This was also dictated by the interests of American farmers, because the USSR needed large quantities of grain that the US could supply after lifting the sanctions. But then Washington also imposed a brake on Europe’s gas cooperation with the USSR. Through the International Energy Agency it was established that the maximum level of supply from that direction may not exceed 30 percent. Americans considered this level of “dependence on Russian gas” critical for the security of the Transatlantic alliance. It is this assumption that has become the basis of the diversification policy, making Europe’s relations with Russia more difficult to this day.
Myśl Polska, no. 43-44 (20-27.10.2019)