Russia is a superpower seeking hegemony and its expansion-oriented policy threatens Ukraine, but it also poses a threat to Poland, according to Konrad Schuller.
In an opinion piece published in FAS, the Sunday edition of leading German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schuller writes that Russia's recent intervention in the Kerch Strait is the latest step in a "policy of conquest" pursued by the Kremlin since the 1990s and threatening the security of Europe.
Schuller, a long-time correspondent of the German newspaper in Poland and Ukraine, argues that it now depends on Germany whether Moscow, which is already "equipped with Kalashnikovs and gunboats, gets a new weapon—the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline."
The German journalist argues that the Sea of Azov, a large bay of the Black Sea, has become a new battleground in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which erupted when Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and then began supporting pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Schuller notes that the northern coast of the bay between Crimea and Russia belongs to Ukraine.
Russia has been targeting the Ukrainian port of Mariupol for a long time, and since this summer it has also been obstructing navigation in the Sea of Azov, Schuller is cited as saying by the dw.com website.
One day, this chunk of coastline may fall into Putin’s hands, he warns.
Russian ‘strategy of conquest’
Russia's actions in the Sea of Azov are in line with the "classic strategy of conquest pursued by hegemonic powers,” Schuller says.
This was how the Russian empire was once built, he adds. Guided by this logic, after World War II, the Soviet Union brought into its orbit not only Berlin, but also Warsaw, Prague and Budapest, Schuller argues.
The latest attack in the Kerch Strait corresponds to this pattern, he claims: Russia already has Crimea and is seeking control of the Sea of Azov and Mariupol.
Ukraine is defending itself, but it is a weak opponent, Schuller argues.
He warns that if Ukraine falls apart or finds itself under the domination of Russia, there will be no peace but further tensions will prevail.
Then “someone in Moscow might remember that not long ago not only Kiev, but also Warsaw, Prague and Berlin belonged to the Russian hegemonic system," Schuller says.
He argues that Germany is giving Putin a new dangerous instrument to destabilise Ukraine: a gas pipeline from Russia via the Baltic Sea.
Schuller says the pipeline harms Ukraine because it will make the country's gas pipeline system, through which Russian gas flows, no longer needed.
Gas transit is 'life insurance' for Kiev
Russian gas in Ukrainian pipelines is "life insurance" for Kiev, Schuller asserts. As long as Russia needs Ukrainian gas pipelines, Putin will not risk a major war because the Ukrainian gas transit system could be destroyed, he claims.
But when Nord Stream 2 starts working, Moscow will no longer need Ukrainian pipelines, according to the German journalist.
"The pipeline through the Baltic Sea is not in essence a business project, but a weapon against Ukraine," Schuller writes.