Flashback: How Russian Pipelines Heat Up Tensions: From Reagan’s Battle Over Yamal To The European Row On Nord Stream 2 | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

Flashback: How Russian Pipelines Heat Up Tensions: From Reagan’s Battle Over Yamal To The European Row On Nord Stream 2

The Yamal pipeline, born at the height of the Cold War, was fiercely fought by President Ronald Reagan. Nord Stream 2 is heavily contested by several Eastern and Central European countries, Ukraine, the United States and-in a different tone and to a lesser extent due to institutional constraints-by the European Commission’s top level officials. Though Yamal and Nord Stream 2 affairs present several striking similarities, they might differ in their development.

The Yamal pipeline and the tit-for-tat around a project initiated in tense geopolitical context

At one of the Cold War’s most tensioned moments, marked by NATO’s deployment of ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles in Italy, United Kingdom and West Germany and by the Soviet Union’s invasion in Afghanistan, a pipeline affair heated the ideological confrontation between the United States and the USSR and mounted the frictions between Washington and its Western European allies: the Siberian pipeline, commonly referred by the literature analysing the issue as “Yamal pipeline”; Gazprom currently refers to this pipeline as “Brotherhood” pipeline (Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod).

The Yamal pipeline project was presented soon after the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and it was further negotiated between the Soviet side (Soyuzgazexport) and Western Europeans (Ruhrgas and Gaz de France) during the year 1980 and the first half of 1981. On July 24, 1981, West Germany- whose Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was willing to preserve the achievements of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik– and USSR concluded a framework agreement on the deal.

From the very beginning, the President Ronald Reagan, who arrived in the White House with the goal of containing the spread of Soviet Union’s power, had seen the Yamal project through geopolitical lens and considered it one of Soviet Union’s significant tool aimed at spreading Moscow’s influence over the Europeans, and in particularly over the Western Alliance. The fear that the Soviets would intensify the military spending with the $ 8 billion currency earned by the gas exports to Europe and the increasing Soviet Union’s role in providing vital energy resources to the Western Europe were also Reagan’s concerns over the affair. For instance, over a decade, from 1970 to 1980, the Soviet gas exports to Western Europe had heavily raised, from 1 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year (or roughly 3.6 bcm, according to some sources) to 26.5 bcm annually.