Boris Johnson is being urged to join Britain’s European allies opposing an attempt by Russia to boost the country’s “economic influence” over the continent with a new pipeline transporting gas directly to Germany.
A coalition of MPs, including Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, and Daniel Kawczynski, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Poland, have told the Foreign Secretary that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will leave Eastern European and Baltic countries open to “blackmail and interference”.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, the MPs highlight fears raised by countries such as Poland and Ukraine, that the new route would threaten the continent’s “energy security and stability”.
Last month Rex Tillerson, Mr Johnson’s American counterpart, who has since been sacked by Donald Trump, said the US shared the concerns.
Critics of the pipeline fear it will increase dependence on Russian energy and allow the Kremlin to scale back its reliance on an existing pipeline running through Ukraine, depriving the country of lucrative transit fees.
Last year a European Parliament briefing warned that the new pipeline, while described by Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy firm, as a purely commercial project, “may be a means to a geopolitical end”.
In their letter, the MPs, who also include the Conservatives Sir Edward Leigh, Bob Stewart and Chris Philp, a government aide, state: “We are writing to you as Members of Parliament associated with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Poland to highlight a key threat to the security of our strategic allies in Central Europe and the Baltic States.
“Energy and defence security are being put at risk by Germany’s determination to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The pipeline will directly link Germany with Russia across the Baltic Sea, while bypassing our Central European allies and opening them up to blackmail and interference.”
They add: “We are sure you can appreciate during these times of rising tensions with Russia the absolute necessity for the UK to guarantee the sovereignty and general security of the UK’s key NATO partners on the eastern flank of our security organisation.
“With the Kremlin holding a controlling stake in Gazprom, it is very easy to see how the new pipeline will consolidate Russian economic influence over Europe, while causing conflict between European nations and holding them hostage.
“The APPG’s position is in line with that of the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who believes that the proposed pipeline would undermine European energy security. A similar position from the UK Government, in line with our main NATO partner, would be helpful to our Polish and Central European allies.”
Source: The Telegraph