Warfare can take many different guises: conventional, unconventional, nuclear, economic, diplomatic, energy, undeclared. But the most successful wars are the ones that needn’t be fought with arms.

Throughout history, many nations have tried to avoid the human and economic calamities caused by conflict. An efficient way to achieve this is by turning a potential adversary into a dependent.  The United States did this with Japan following World War II. What previously was a regional power that had managed to conquer most of the Far East and the Pacific Ocean was turned into an obedient ally. It took two atomic bombs, thousands of lives, and countless dollars to achieve this aim. But now America and Japan share common interests and will fight for the same objectives in the Far East.

The Siberian Strategist

Nord Stream 2
A placard pointing to a Nord Stream 2 construction site.

Quite reasonably, Russia is doing the same in Europe. Bereft of most of its past buffer zones and the safety that they had provided, Russia is vying to be Europe’s chief energy provider. By doing so, Moscow seeks to avoid or minimize the risk of armed warfare. The Russian government satisfyingly watches Europe’s — and especially Germany’s — increasing energy dependence on Russian natural gas.

The pipeline, traversing land and sea, has become a lucrative substitute to armed coercion. Currently, Russia pumps 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas into Europe per year. A proposed extension of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will skyrocket that number to 3.9 trillion cubic feet — a quarter of Europe’s energy needs. As importantly, the pipeline will bypass Ukraine, thus reducing its geopolitical weight.

Add to that America’s increasingly irresponsible foreign policy, and Russia, despite its ceaseless assaults on democracy, free speech, and human rights around the globe, gains momentum.

Recently, Germany and the U.S. agreed on measures to reduce the potential strategic risk posed by Nord Stream 2 and vowed to not allow Russia to use it as a weapon. Nevertheless, a number of countries, including Poland and Ukraine, are calling the measures inadequate and a surrender of Eastern European security interests to German economic ones.

So when the next crisis emerges, Russia might have a very real leverage on European foreign policy.

 

This article was published in September 2018. It has been edited and expanded for republication.

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