An early culmination of this trend was reached during the commemoration last August of the 70th anniversary of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, when Putin essentially accused Poland of starting World War II in collusion with Nazi Germany. Molotov-Ribbentrop, it will be recalled, was the cynical August 23, 1939, pact between Hitler and Stalin to divide Eastern Europe between themselves, which ushered in World War II a week later and, shortly thereafter, the violent dismemberment of Poland and the enslavement of the Baltic republics. Needless to say, since then, any German-Russian agreement that appears to be at the expense of the Eastern Europeans brings back painful déjà vu and predictable outrage.
As it happened, just such an event took place the day before Kaczynski’s tragic death, with the beginning of the construction of a direct gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. To understand why this undersea pipeline, officially known as Nord Stream, is already called by some in Poland (including foreign minister Radek Sikorski) the “Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline,” one must realize that its primary purpose is to serve the Kremlin as an instrument for political pressure. (…)
Unfortunately for the Kremlin, yet another event last week may doom all of these carefully laid plans. A press release by the American oil and gas exploration company Wood Mackenzie announced the discovery of huge quantities of shale gas in Northern Poland and its imminent exploitation by American companies holding 44 licenses to do that. For Poland, which currently imports three-quarters of the natural gas it needs from Russia, the 47 trillion cubic feet of gas discovered would suffice for 200 years of present consumption. The discovery further boosts proven E.U. gas resources by almost 50 percent and will almost certainly transform Poland into a major exporter to those neighboring countries that have also been at the receiving end of Russian energy blackmail.
Even before this find, Central and Eastern European countries decided at an “Energy Security Summit” in Budapest last February to unify their gas transportation and LNG networks in order to achieve greater energy independence from Russia. With the Polish gas discovery and similar large finds of unconventional gas predicted for Hungary, Austria, and elsewhere, this energy independence could become a reality in just a few years. It would be poetic justice indeed if the Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline is then transformed from an instrument of blackmail into an undersea white elephant.
Alex Alexiev, National Review Online
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