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Cablegate: Estonia Opposes Nord Stream Pipeline

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RR RUEHAG RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTL #0325/01 3101501
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 061501Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0209
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0043

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TALLINN 000325 SIPDIS AMEMBASSY ANKARA PASS TO AMCONSUL ADANA AMEMBASSY ASTANA PASS TO USOFFICE ALMATY AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL LEIPZIG AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PASS TO AMEMBASSY PODGORICA AMEMBASSY HELSINKI PASS TO AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG AMEMBASSY ATHENS PASS TO AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/06 TAGS: ENRG PREL SENV RS EN

SUBJECT: Estonia Opposes Nord Stream Pipeline CLASSIFIED BY: Marc Nordberg, Political/Economic Chief; REASON: 1.4(B), (D) Classified by Charge Karen Decker for Reasons 1.4 B & D.

1. (SBU) Summary: Although the Nord Stream pipeline will not cross Estonian waters, Estonians are concerned about the pipeline for environmental and security reasons. Estonian MPs argue that they do not oppose Nord Stream, but complained that the pipeline company has failed to answer many questions about the ecological impact of the project, and has provided no Baltic-wide environmental impact statement. Estonia also fears Russia could use Nord Stream as a pretext for increasing its naval presence in the Baltic. End summary. 2. (SBU) On October 27 Estonia's parliament issued a statement expressing concern over the environmental impact of the Nord Stream pipeline and appealing to other regional parliaments to consider carefully potential damage to the Baltic Sea from this project. Pol/Econ Chief met on November 3 with MPs Marko Mihkelson, Chair of Parliament's European Affairs Committee (and a Russia and energy expert), and Mart Jussi, Chair of the Environment Committee (and a marine biologist specializing in marine life the Baltic Sea) to discuss Nord Stream. Mihkelson and Jussi stressed many times that they are not absolutely opposed to Nord Stream, but that the company's environmental assessments leave many unanswered environmental questions. Exacerbating the problem, Mihkelson said, is Estonia's general lack of trust in Russia. Environment the Main Concern -------------------------------------- 3. (SBU) Jussi explained that in the 1960s and 1970s the countries around the Baltic Sea dumped many industrial pollutants and fertilizers into the water. These countries subsequently undertook strenuous efforts to revive the sea, but these pollutants remain, buried in sediment. Jussi, who has worked for twenty years as a marine biologist in the Baltic, said Estonian experts fear that laying and anchoring heavy pipeline segments will stir up these pollutants, poisoning marine life and causing algae blooms from the accumulated fertilizer. Worse, the Nord Stream company plans to detonate 600 to 900 mines to clear a path for the pipeline (Note: the Estonian Navy estimates there are up to 80,000 mines left in the Baltic from 19th and 20th century wars). These explosions will also stir up the pollutants buried in sediment. Because of prevailing currents, Jussi explained any exposed pollutants would drift south to Estonia's coast. Since the Baltic is a shallow, extremely constricted sea, it has an very slow rate of water exchange, so any pollutants would take years to be removed or diluted. Jussi and Mihkelson both stated that the Baltic Sea countries conducted a major effort in recent decades to revive the Baltic Sea, that they now want to make sure the sea will not be put at risk. 4. (SBU) Jussi also claimed Nord Stream Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) glossed over the risk of accidental damage to the pipeline. Nord Stream will be 1,220 kilometers long, 600 km of that is under active shipping routes. Annually there are more than 50,000 shipping entries to the Gulf of Finland. Jussi argued that there are times when ships suffer engine loss, or some other misfortune which causes them to drop anchor (to avoid drifting ashore in the narrow gulf). If the anchor did not set properly, it could drag across the pipeline. Jussi quoted a fellow MP who spent a number of years as a ships captain, and who said his oil tanker did precisely this three or four times over the years. The EIAs also called seismic events "non-significant" even though there have recently been measurable earthquakes in Latvia and Kaliningrad. TALLINN 00000325 002 OF 003 5. (SBU) When asked how Nord Stream differs from the Estlink electrical cables (one in place between Finland and Estonia, with another likely to be built by 2014), Jussi explained that the electrical cable is a relatively light, flexible cable that does not need heavy concrete anchors, and that could bend if snagged by an anchor. Also, Estlink would not explode or release natural gas if broken. Jussi admitted that Nord Stream mine clearance is as ecologically damaging as mine clearance routinely conducted by the Estonian Navy, and added he is working with the Navy on more environmentally friendly ways to remove mines. However, the number of mines Nord Stream would clear (600 to 900) dwarfs the 70 the Navy removes annually. Lack of Trust an Issue -------------------------- 6. (C) Mihkelson admitted that lack of trust in Russia is a major factor in Estonian fears, as is Russia's clear use of energy as a political weapon. Russia and Nord Stream have not helped ease these fears. First, Nord Stream was announced after quiet talks between Russia and Germany (the inescapable subtext being the "quiet" talks about the Baltics between Molotov and Ribbentrop). Mihkelson claimed that Russian foreign intelligence officers (SVR) have been active in Estonia investigating opposition to the pipeline. This he saw as clear evidence Nord Stream is a political, not economic project. Militarily, Russia also used the defense of Nord Stream as an element of its recent Ladoga military exercise (Note: In the September Ladoga and Zapad exercises, Russia and Belarus practiced repelling an attack from the Baltic States). Jussi mentioned rumors that Russia planned to add sonobouys to the pipeline to monitor ship and submarine traffic in the Baltic. Mihkelson also argued that Gazprom could build the Yamal II pipeline through Belarus and Poland at a fraction of the cost of Nord Stream, again demonstrating that Nord Stream has political, not economic goals. While Mihkelson said he understands Russia's desire to diversify routes, Estonia's history makes him suspect the worst from Russia. 7. (C) Jussi also questioned Nord Stream's tactics. He accused Nord Stream of "salami slicing." That is, Nord Stream has been doling out information in narrow slices to different audiences. For its Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), Nord Stream has only focused on local areas and has not provided any overall assessment of the project's impact. The Danish EIA addressed concerns about chemical weapons dumped near Bornholm, but did not even mention the Gulf of Finland. The Finnish EIA discussed Finnish waters, but did not mention pollutant drift towards Estonia (and further used environmental data from the North Sea, which is not comparable to Baltic conditions). Jussi also complained that Russia would not make public the EIA for its waters. He does not believe Nord Stream conducted a serious EIA for Russia, since none of his Russian marine biologist colleagues were contacted for input. Did Denmark and Finland Sell-Out? ------------------------------------------- 8. (C) Mihkelson and Jussi understood why Denmark approved the EIA. Danish environmental concerns (chemical weapons) were met, plus Denmark signed a 20 year gas deal with Gazprom, will get transit fees, and was able to improve relations with Russia that had soured over Chechen refugees. They had a harder time explaining Finland's TALLINN 00000325 003 OF 003 likely (and subsequent) approval. Finland has been a strong protector of the environment for 100 years, but Jussi said it took an Estonian NGO to challenge Nord Stream's demining permits in Finnish court. (The Estonian Fund for Nature is challenging data provided by Nord Stream, as well as the fact that Nord Stream is applying for permits piecemeal - they asked for permission to clear 28 mines with the first permit, 70 mines with the second, etc., to avoid revealing the full extent of potential ecological damage.). Jussi also said Finnish marine experts have approached him and other Estonian scientists to point out problems with the Finnish EIA and that Nord Stream's data contradicts years of Finnish research. However, Jussi does not understand why these researchers do not go public themselves. Mihkelson took a cynical view, commenting that recently Putin announced a delay in taxation on timber exports (a big boost to Finnish industry) and offered Finland access to the Shtokman gas fields. He is waiting to see what Putin offers the Swedes at the November 18 EU-Russia Summit in Stockholm. 9. (C) Comment: While Mihkelson and Jussi's comments show some evidence of paranoia towards Russia (justified or not), they do raise compelling arguments against Nord Stream. As the pipeline will not cross Estonian waters, Estonia has no formal say in the approval process. The Estonian Parliament realizes this, and also does not want to be seen as obstructionist. Mihkelson and Jussi both claimed their role is to encourage the Swedish and Finnish parliaments to ask questions. Both stressed repeatedly that they are not automatically against Nord Stream, but that there remain many unanswered questions. Whether they can be answered to Estonia's satisfaction is a different issue. DECKER

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