The truth about Russia and Nord Stream may cripple Europe

Commentary

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist
Archive |

Swedish investigators say sabotage caused the explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. The leaks in the crucial pipelines connecting Russia and Germany occurred simultaneously in September. Moscow last month claimed without evidence that the United Kingdom attacked the pipeline. While the culprit behind the attacks remains unidentified, Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says the truth about the Nord Stream attacks may cripple Europe because of its dependence on Russian energy.

Excerpted from Peter’s Nov. 21 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

The Nord Stream bombing is one of those situations where the truth won’t set you free. Sweden, which has the most robust naval and forensic capabilities in the area, is indicating it has ample evidence to implicate Russia in the bombing. Calling a spade a spade would hold grave consequences for Europe. Much of what makes today’s Europe today’s Europe is unfettered access to not simply Russian energy supplies, but a wide array of Russian non-energy material inputs…and you don’t trade with countries that blow up your stuff.

But the new news is that the Swedes had identified the type of explosive and they’ve actually gotten samples from within the pipeline, which means that they’ve got their nose so far deep into where the evidence would be that they know exactly who did it and how. For weeks, Sweden has been unofficially pointing the finger at Russia, Sweden has by far the most capable navy on the Baltic Sea. Sweden has by far the most advanced sonar and forensic capability in the area. And on the day that Nord Stream was bombed, they started quietly telling their European partners that it was definitely the Russians who did it. And if there’s anyone in the space that has the ability to identify what actually happened, it would be Sweden. 

However, they have not made their findings official in any…possible way until now. And the question is, what has changed, and the question is, why have they not? Unfortunately, for the Europeans, the answer is pretty simple to the second questions. If they admit that the Russians are deliberately destroying critical European infrastructure, then that requires action. In the parlance of the United States, it makes Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. And countries that kind of fall into that category, you don’t trade with. And this, at least at this moment, has not been an option for the Europeans at all. Even with Nord Stream offline, Russia remains the number three supplier of natural gas to the continent. It is the number one source of the inputs that allows the Europeans to make fertilizer or to smelt aluminum. This is the raw material that goes into their steel. This is the raw material that goes into their copper. This is the raw material that goes into the European semiconductor sector. This is timber.

You remove all of that from the European system and there is no way you don’t have something that is at least as bad as the 2007-2013 financial crisis in the Europe space. This is the kind of thing that would trigger a recession, that it’s very possible that the Europeans wouldn’t recover from.

Hello, everybody, Peter Zeihan here, coming to you from Colorado. It is Monday the 21st of November, so Happy Thanksgiving week to everybody. We’re going to have a series come out this week on issues that have come out of the Ukraine war in terms of economics and strategy and everything else. 

Now, we’re going to start with something that the Swedish government started announcing this past Friday, when they started releasing bits and pieces from the forensic work that they have done on the Nord Stream bombing. Now Nord Stream is a natural gas pipeline that goes under the Baltic Sea from the Russian mainland to the German coast. And when it was operating, it was providing the German economy with 40% of their natural gas usage. And without it, we are talking about the beginning of the end of Germany as an industrial power. More on that later in the series. 

But the new news is that the Swedes had identified the type of explosive and they’ve actually gotten samples from within the pipeline, which means that they’ve got their nose so far deep into where the evidence would be that they know exactly who did it and how. For weeks, Sweden has been unofficially pointing the finger at Russia, Sweden has by far the most capable navy on the Baltic Sea. Sweden has by far the most advanced sonar and forensic capability in the area. And on the day that Nord Stream was bombed, they started quietly telling their European partners that it was definitely the Russians who did it. And if there’s anyone in the space that has the ability to identify what actually happened, it would be Sweden. 

However, they have not made their findings official in any…possible way until now. And the question is, what has changed, and the question is, why have they not? Unfortunately, for the Europeans, the answer is pretty simple to the second questions. If they admit that the Russians are deliberately destroying critical European infrastructure, then that requires action. In the parlance of the United States, it makes Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. And countries that kind of fall into that category, you don’t trade with. And this, at least at this moment, has not been an option for the Europeans at all. Even with Nord Stream offline, Russia remains the number three supplier of natural gas to the continent. It is the number one source of the inputs that allows the Europeans to make fertilizer or to smelt aluminum. This is the raw material that goes into their steel. This is the raw material that goes into their copper. This is the raw material that goes into the European semiconductor sector. This is timber.

You remove all of that from the European system and there is no way you don’t have something that is at least as bad as the 2007-2013 financial crisis in the Europe space. This is the kind of thing that would trigger a recession, that it’s very possible that the Europeans wouldn’t recover from. Because we are, we are well past the point where Europe was a…consumer of goods. Europe has aged. The demographics of the continent are sharply terminal, and it has far more people in their 60s than their 50s than their 40s than their 30s. So the business model for Europe today is to take raw materials from somewhere else, metabolize them into finished goods, and then export them into markets that can actually consume. Without the Russians, they lose that first step, and the entire economic model goes away. 

Now the sanctions that the Europeans have put on the Russians to this point were done with this in mind. The whole idea was you phase things out over months or even years, so that the European system has a chance to adapt to either get new suppliers, or more likely go through some very significant economic restructuring. So that on the other side of this, the Europeans aren’t nearly as dependent upon the imported materials, no matter where they came from. 

The Nord Stream investigation threatens to throw that all into a tizzy, because if the Swedes actually do come out and provide the proof that everyone seems in Europe to know that the Swedes have, then all of a sudden everybody has to make some very specific decisions. And even if the Europeans don’t do it, with that evidence out there the Americans under existing law really don’t have much of a choice. And then the Americans will have to stop trading with any country that is still trading with the Russians. And in that sort of circumstance, the entire European economic and social model goes away in a very, very short period of time. 

This is one of those situations where the truth will not set you free, but the truth appears to be about to come out. Next time we’ll dive into the energy situation and specific, give you an idea of what’s coming down the pipe. Until then.


Get unbiased straight facts, context, and perspective!