What is Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation and what is Putin’s Nord Stream 2?

Latin word corruptio has quite a broad exegesis, broader than the word daily used in Russian language and even Roman and Germanic languages. Its interpretation implies decay, putrefaction, leprosy, and contagion. For the death-sick State of Russia, corruption is indeed the existential problem — it has soaked through the system, the regime is framed upon the corruption in all forms such as bribe money and embezzlement, illegal use of official capacity, crossing then over all areas such as education, legal order, health care, starting from the highest authorities. And on the throne of this corrupted system Vladimir Putin sits playing the role of the lifelong arbiter and poisoner making Russian people suffer. But looking more generally, Russia is part of the international geopolitical scene and Russian president’s purpose is not only to enrich his close circle but more importantly to deteriorate Western democracy.

This article is available also in Polish.

Unlawful pursuits, attempted murders, abduction from the airport before crossing the border, trial, imprisonment and illegal sentence of Alexey Navalny is undoubtedly supreme corruption. One of the reasons why it is done with such Pompa is to extinguish the hope of Russians and people in opposition. The following actions of Russian police and siloviks are aiming at isolating the leading actors of Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). So what is Navalny’s FBK? And the answer is lying on the surface: FBK is nothing but a foundation for combating the democracy decay in Russia but also in EU suffering of Putin’s allies in Europe who claim anti-European and anti-democratic values. Those are easily found in many EU countries such as Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, and those are usually close friends of Putin.

Navalny has never been convicted of illegal earnings or activities though was sentenced several times. And every time he was acquitted by the European Court of Human Rights. The same happened this time — the prosecutors were making inconsistent arguments, the biased judge was agreeing, but as counterweight to dry legal terms that have nothing to do with justice Navalny was not interested to oppose as it was meaningless. Instead he was saying that “the prison as you know is mental”, he imagined his imprisonment in the cell as “space trip.” And his talks are not bravados but sincere and unshakable faith in morally high substance such as cosmos, in the beautiful Russia of the future. Navalny appears before us as a liberator from corruptio, his foundation is of those who stand behind him and is freely supported by donors — these people are willing Russia to become a beautiful democratic future free of poisonous and decomposing corruption.

After his return to Russia and his social immurement, protests were held throughout Russia but also all over the world. On January 31, 2021 I couldn’t participate in the rally but accidentally met Gerhard Schröder calmly walking with his wife in Hannover. The day before in the interview for Die Rheinische Post, he said that it was in Germany’s interests for Russia to “develop its own identity and its own economic strength.” For the former German chancellor, it is doubtful to see Russian identity development sitting at the altitude of the chairman of Russian petroleum company Rosneft and international gas transport consortium Nord Stream AG. But what is Nord Stream 2? It tries to be represented as just a gas transport pipeline and infrastructure project that aims at diversifying energy supply. It is also said to strengthen European energy security. Though European Commission considers Nord Stream 2 neither diversifying nor sustainable and secure, Josep Boreal who was dragged across the negotiating table with his face by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov “can’t deter private companies from investing in an industrial project.”

However Nord Stream 2 is worthless to be considered a purely economic project to improve European energy security. Such matters do not only excite Vladimir Putin as well as energy price reduction for European consumers but also contradict his purposes. The first purpose — enrichment and stealing as much money as possible — is partially already reached: uncontrollably growing Gazprom investments in Nord Stream 2 construction on the Russian territory are a tasty subject for a money saw cut which is made. But the second purpose is more important though more complicated and long term — to deteriorate European democracy, to corrupt its values and to weaken unified Europe through but not limited to energy security dependence and drop. This point is extremely important for the state that considers clean energy development as a danger for its hydrocarbons-based economy.

The cold winter and the ice front, which covered Europe in February 2021, led to the depletion of gas reserves in underground storage facilities (UGS). According to Gas Infrastructure Europe, over a third more gas was withdrawn from European underground gas storage facilities than in the entire last winter. This naturally gives additional joker cards to those lobbyists of Russian pipeline gas transport in the short-term. In the mid- and long-term however Nord Stream 2 can indeed even reduce European energy security and increase risks, especially in the “climate-energy-economy” paradigm. Gazprom recently said Russia must ensure that there is no competition between its LNG and pipeline gas supplies to international markets. The announcement is prompted by the growing role of Yamal LNG, Arctic project of second largest gas company Novatek, supply to the European market which from 2018 to 2020 provided 33.5M tons to Europe and only 8.8M tons to Asia. Gazprom approves no competition between Russian gas suppliers saying they still support LNG development. The issue of preventing competition between pipe and liquefied Russian gas should be reflected in the “General Scheme for the Development of the Gas Industry for the Period up to 2035,” said Pavel Zavalny, head of the energy committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament (Duma). He noted that due to different taxation and the fact that Russian LNG is replacing Russian pipe gas in the European market, the Russian budget has lost about 100 billion rubles for the last three years. Increase of the price for LNG supply is equal to profit reduction which is out of scope for Russia intending to triple annual LNG production to 140M tons over next 15 years, and consequently change in supply chains with forced dependence on a single source of energy as Nord Stream 2. This will not only worsen security but also lock Europe to Nord Stream 2 without alternatives. Having such an instrument Putin will continue to lobby his interests in the EU giving appointments to EU former senior diplomats to the directors boards of Russian energy companies, that is a low price for him to stay in power.

To add more, Zavalny says, “Moscow needs to accelerate the development of its Arctic gas reserves before it is too late. … We are now in an energy transition, and the largest consumers of hydrocarbons are aligning themselves with the goals of carbon neutrality. To get the most of these reserves, we need to act quickly.” And this is about Russian Arctics where mean temperature is increasing twice as fast than anywhere else. This line of actions will allow to reach EU climate goals neither by 2050, nor doubtfully at all.

Marat Musakaev
Marat Musakaev is Russian energy expert, previously worked for Rosneft as senior reservoir engineering technologist. Currently he is working as research assistant at Leibniz University Hannover.

“File:Major russian gas pipelines to europe.png” by Samuel Bailey (sam.bailus@gmail.com) is licensed with CC BY 3.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0