Weeks after getting the European Union’s approval for a gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea, Russia is moving ahead with its plans to construct a new Black Sea pipeline into Western Europe. Moscow intends to extend the existing Turk Stream pipeline that links Russia and Turkey to supply Western Europe with gas, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

Last month, the EU revised its energy guidelines to approve the NordStream 2 pipeline that delivers Russian gas directly to Germany. The TurkStream 2, as the new project is known, is due to start this month as “Serbia is ready to start construction of the TurkStream segment from the border with Bulgaria to the border with Hungary,” Russia’s state-run news agency TASS claimed. Though the project still needs the EU’s approval, last month’s negotiations on the North Stream project have shown Brussels’ eagerness to secure access to Russian gas.

Deutsche Welle reported the details of the new Russian gas project:

Bulgaria is considering joining Russia’s TurkStream 2 pipeline proposal and, according to the country’s Ministry of Energy, is ready to invest €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion) in the project. (…)

The original 910 kilometer-long (565 mile) TurkStream gas pipeline runs under the Black Sea, linking Russia and Turkey. This project is due to be completed by the end of this year, along with the Power of Siberia pipeline, which links Russia to China, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany. Turkey is Russian energy giant Gazprom’s second biggest client after Germany.

A second pipeline, TurkStream 2, is intended for the European market. Gazprom has two options for reaching Western Europe: either through Greece and Italy or through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and the Baumgarten hub in Austria. Earlier in February, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to discuss the pipeline project. However, the chairman of Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy, said on Thursday ahead of a two-day visit to Moscow that his country was considering whether to allow the new pipeline through Greek territory.

The move will further strengthen Russia’s position as a geopolitical player in Europe. President Donald Trump has been critical of Germany over its dependence on Russian gas. “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” he said during the NATO summit meeting last summer.

Currently, Russia amounts to 40 percent of gas import to Europe. This energy dependence is expected to grow further as Chancellor Angela Merkel moves ahead with a radical environmentalist agenda, phasing out all the existing coal and nuclear power stations in the country.

The German political establishment is deeply implicated in Moscow’s plans to expand its energy infrastructure westwards. Chancellor Merkel’s predecessor, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, is head of NordStream AG, the multi-billion dollar Russian company that owns the Russia-to-Germany pipeline.

While Berlin continues to entangle itself into Russian pipelines, it increasingly relies on Washington for its security needs. Chancellor Merkel’s austerity measures have stripped the Germany military of its basic defense capabilities. With Berlin failing to pay even the minimum agreed two percent of its GDP to NATO, the U.S. has to shoulder more than 70 percent of the combined NATO budget. According to a German parliamentary report released in January, “Less than 50 percent of the Bundeswehr’s tanks, ships and aircraft were available” at any given time. German soldiers on the battlefield lacked even the basic equipment such as body armor and overalls, the official report revealed.

“Nord Stream 2 will heighten Europe’s susceptibility to Russia’s energy blackmail tactics,” US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell cautioned last month. He also warned German energy firms of “a significant risk of sanctions” for their involvement in the Russian pipeline project.

It’s not just Washington that worries about the pipeline. Many of the eastern European countries are also weary of Moscow’s growing dominance in the European energy market. Poland has been the most critical of the emerging Russo-German energy arrangement. Polish President Andrzej Duda has criticized Germany for going ahead with the Russian pipeline projects. “[O]urs is a voice calling out in the woods and the project is going ahead against the interests of some European Union countries,” President Duda said last October. The deal would threaten the continent’s security by making Moscow the dominant energy supplier in Europe, he added.

President Trump: Germany is a ‘captive of Russia’

[Cover image via YouTube]