Now, of course, you can argue about what Markus Söder actually wants to say. Some see a kind of self-assurance in his numerous comments on just as many topics , others a clumsy self-portrayal. Either way, the CSU leader, who wants to win a state election in Bavaria next year, is attracting attention these days with committed criticism of the federal government, which often ends in pithy headlines.
With all the expansive general criticism, no matter how demonstrative it may be, an interesting question that the Bavarian Prime Minister raised while tirelessly banging on the traffic lights has gone unnoticed: "Would the federal government be prepared if Vladimir Putin declared that the repair of Nord Stream 1 takes longer and he's offering to use Nord Stream 2 for that?"
A few days ago, Söder was quoted by "Bild am Sonntag". As if he saw something coming.
Gas is flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline again, that much has been certain since this Thursday morning. But for how much longer? As early as tomorrow, Russia's President Vladimir Putin could turn off the gas tap again, throttle delivery volumes again, possibly even have them stopped altogether. The gas may be flowing again, but the crisis remains - and with it the anxious shivering ahead of next winter.
The Kremlin boss should like that, unpredictability is his most effective weapon. But the Russian President obviously sees in the gas shortage he has fueled in Europe an opportunity to push through a project that was put on hold as a result of the sanctions: Nord Stream 2.
The pipeline has been built since 2021, but is not in operation. The approval process for the line was suspended by Germany in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Now that every cubic meter of gas could make the difference in how Germany gets through the winter, Putin is trying to pitch the commissioning of the €10 billion project as a solution to all the problems.
Moscow repeats its narrative that the throttling of the pipeline through Nord Stream 1 is solely due to a missing turbine. This should now be on its way to Russia, but there is no reason to breathe a sigh of relief, at least that's how Putin wants it to be understood.
If Russia does not receive the repaired turbine back in time, the daily throughput capacity of the pipeline threatens to fall further at the end of July due to the need to repair "another unit," the Russian President said, according to the TASS news agency. And then pushed afterwards: "We still have a finished route - that's Nord Stream 2. We can put it into operation."
What Putin is trying to present as a tempting offer has been criticized by politicians from the Ampel parties as a "show" and an "attempt at blackmail". "The issue of Nord Stream 2 has been settled for a good reason - and this reason is in the Kremlin," said Lukas Koehler, Vice President of the FDP. "There is nothing more to say about Putin's latest show." For Nina Scheer, energy policy spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, the question does not arise "insofar as there are no technical reasons against the use of Nord Stream 1 from a European perspective with the return of the turbine."
The questionable offer fits the Kremlin's strategy. Russia's President Vladimir Putin counts fear-mongering among his arsenal of weapons, attempts to arouse desires (whether for food or energy) and threats (of nuclear war) to undermine the resolve of countries supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russia , and to shift their priorities. With initial success: Germany feels shivering, worries about rising (energy) prices are taking up more and more space. On Thursday, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned of potentially devastating domestic political effects if the gas from Russia were to fail.
"Apparently he wants to blackmail the commissioning of Nord Stream 2," said energy economist Claudia Kemfert to the editorial network Germany (RND). "The fact that the head of the Kremlin, Putin, is now talking about Nord Stream 2 shows that Nord Stream 1 was never about technical reasons, but about purely political reasons," said the head of the Energy, Transport, Environment department at the German Institute for Economic Research ( DIW) in Berlin. She warns against putting it into operation if it would only further increase dependence on Russia. The Russian president is concerned with "being able to continue using gas as a political weapon. And he is currently doing that very intensively."
In addition, the offer fits the Russian narrative, not Moscow but the Europeans would bear the responsibility for "this story", as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last repeated on Wednesday, one day before the scheduled end of the maintenance work: "They want to break away from the good ones Release relationships that have grown over many decades in the fields of energy, logistics or transport communication," Lavrov said. "There you go! That's your choice." Blame yourself, that's obviously the message.
It is unlikely that Nord Stream 2 could go into operation. "This pipeline is not connected to the grid," said SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert on Thursday morning on "ntv Frühstart". "A clear political decision was made on Nord Stream 2." Kühnert pointed out that there is currently no lack of pipeline capacity, but rather of delivery quantities - and this problem would not be solved by the second gas pipeline. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen EU has also rejected the Russian President's considerations about commissioning. "I want to be very clear here: Nord Stream 2 is not even certified and is not operational at all," she said in Brussels on Wednesday.
In this respect, there is apparently a clear answer to the question raised by Bavaria's Prime Minister Söder. It reads: No, Nord Stream 2 is not an option.