With Angela Merkel, Putin’s tactic of using personal connections to strengthen Russia’s position in Europe no longer worked. When Merkel took office, she was concerned with Germany’s economic development and with keeping Europe together so that Germany remains stable. She seemed to have little time or interest in understanding Russia’s plans for Europe. But Russia had time to, conversely, understand the Chancellor’s plans.
Just months after Merkel took office, in January 2006, a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices led to a brief suspension of Russian supplies to Europe, including Germany. By cutting off energy supplies, Russia wanted to force Europeans to support Russian policies in Ukraine and reject Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. Instead, the incident sparked interest across the continent in diversifying energy supplies and reducing aggregate demand. The European Union adopted ambitious alternative energy and energy saving programs that also fueled Europe’s plans to curb greenhouse gases.
Europeans seemed determined to explore alternative sources of energy and reduce dependence on Russian gas and Russian pipelines through Ukraine. Suddenly, a pipeline project called Nabucco, which was proposed in the early 2000s and was supposed to bring gas from Azerbaijan, was intensely discussed in Brussels. It was to be routed through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to the Austrian center of Central Europe.
Heeding European – and German – concerns, Russia also offered “help”: Moscow proposed two natural gas pipelines to divert the Ukrainian route: Nord Stream, which runs through the Baltic Sea from Saint Petersburg to Germany, and South Stream, which runs through the Black Sea should lead from the vicinity of Novorossiysk to Bulgaria.