MOSCOW — Lithuania’s authorities object to plans to build a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, citing environmental concerns. This is the first attempt to block the project, signaling perhaps the beginning of a war by the Baltic states and Poland against the Russian-German gas and political alliance.
The new gas pipeline could disturb stockpiles of Hitler’s chemical weapons resting on the bed of the Baltic Sea, which would lead to an environmental disaster, Lithuanian prime minister Algirdas Brazauskas said.
“Being members of the Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea, we will demand compliance with all requirements set out in the document. The Baltic Sea is our common heritage, it’s not property of one or two countries,” he said, promising to raise the issue at the forthcoming North European summit in Reykjavik.
Other Lithuanian politicians were more aggressive. Vytautas Landsbergis, member of the European Parliament, said the new Russian-German alliance was designed to change Europe’s political map. If the gas project was implemented, the Baltic states and Poland would be left at the mercy of Russia.
The pipeline will stretch more than 1,200 kilometers, from the city of Vyborg in the north-west of Russia to Germany's northeastern city of Greifswald. It is expected to go on-stream in 2010, with an annual capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters. A second planned pipeline could double capacity to around 55 billion cubic meters a year. Overall costs for two pipelines would be above EUR 4 billion. Construction of the first pipeline will commence this autumn.
The gas pipeline agreement was signed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin a week ago.
The project affects the interests of many countries. Until now, Russia pumped gas to the West through Ukraine’s Neftegaz, via Belarus, Poland and Slovakia. But Russia is not happy with things as they are.
Ukraine used to steal gas from Russia’s pipelines, using the transit pipeline for putting political pressure on Moscow.
Poland, which entered NATO and the EU, is playing an increasingly important part in Eastern Europe, apparently claiming the role of the European ‘guardian’ for Belarus and Ukraine. The gas pipeline from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula to Europe strengthened its position. But relations between Moscow and Warsaw took a hit when Poland supported the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
There are problems with Belarus, too. Lukashenko’s regime, friendly as it may seem, is absolutely unpredictable. Two years ago, Moscow had to fight with Belarus to get a fair price for its natural gas supplies.
Planning another pipeline to bypass its neighbors, Russia is attacking Ukraine, Belarus and Poland. The new gas deal in fact means Russia’s political alliance with Germany.
In related developments, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus demanded that Russia compensate damage caused by the crash of a Russian fighter in Lithuania yesterday. Damage sustained by Lithuanian farmers is estimated at about EUR 3,000, Echo of Moscow radio reported.
Adamkus also asked the media not to dramatize the situation, saying it was a mere incident.
Russia’s Su-27 crashed in Ukraine yesterday. A pilot reported navigation problems and bailed out at 16:00, landing 55km from Kaunas. There was no word of casualties. The incident is being investigated by Russian and Lithuanian services.