Big, empty and unnecessary – that’s the future that Russian site Ukraina.ru predicts for Ukraine’s gas transit system once the Nord stream-2 pipeline is built. While Russian media is eager to bury Ukraine’s vast gas transit system, Kyiv is planning the pipeline’s modernization, signing contracts on long term transit cooperation and restructuring the company that oversees the network.
Ukraina.ru is not the only Russian propaganda outfit predicting the imminent demise of Ukraine’s gas transit structure. Moskovskyi Komsomolets also jumped into the fray calling Ukraine’s network outdated, a heap of metal junk, and needed by no one. Nord Stream 2 meanwhile is a project “free of politics”, “an economic win”, and “a project for the future”.
Nord stream 2 a pipeline intended to transport Russian gas to Germany bypassing Ukraine via the Baltic Sea was never a purely commercial project if only because Gazprom, its parent company is majority owned by the Russian government. As Dr. Alan Riley from the Institute for Statecraft in London compellingly argues in a recent article, Nord Stream 2 is a political project intended to remove Ukraine from the European gas equation and choke Europe’s attempts at energy diversification.
Ukraine is anticipating a significant reduction in the transit of Russian gas through its pipelines and preparing accordingly. Its recently developed Energy Strategy calls for deep reforms in the energy sector as well as administrative restructuring of companies overseeing the sector, its pipelines are being updated and reconstructed, new pipelines are being added linking the existing system to potential new gas routes.
Ukraine has not been importing Russian gas for nearly two years and has successfully provided heat to consumers through two harsh winters. It has increased its own gas production and modernized its infrastructure in a pointed drive to increase energy efficiency. The country has the largest gas storage capacity in Europe and its transit network continues to provide nearly 20 percent of Russian gas consumed by Europeans.
Russian gas transit through Ukraine hit a five year high this year, making Russian media predictions of the death of Ukraine’s gas transit system, in the words of Mark Twain, highly exaggerated.