The First Russian Gas Pipeline to Germany

Natural gas—the fuel of modern prosperity—is now the lynchpin of geopolitical tussles: Russia is the largest producer of natural gas, while Europe is an ever-hungry market for reliable energy. An ideal commercial relationship, one would think. But geopolitics has intervened and things have taken many drastic turns—because the geopolitics of energy means using natural gas as a tool to influence political outcomes.

This interesting documentary film gives us a glimpse of the early days of the Russian supply of natural gas, when the then Soviet Union and Germany signed the 20-year “gas for pipes” agreement in 1970, in Essen, where Germany would supply the steel pipes, while Russia supplied the gas. The deal worth a billion dollars at that time. Adversaries could still do business in those halcyon days.

This film then goes on to show the prosperity brought to, what was then, West Germany and East Germany, by this easy and reliable energy supply.

By the time construction was completed, in 1973, from the Russian side, the pipes ran to the Czech border, from where a German pipeline took the gas further into Germany proper. This initial effort was greatly expanded over the years, with the Brotherhood Pipeline (completed in 1984) and later the Yamal-Europe pipeline (completed in 1996).

In other words, Siberian natural gas fueled the prosperity of Europe, because by 1985, some 20,000 kms of pipeline economically linked Europe and Russia. From the very beginning, this so-called “dependence” of Europe on Russian gas was a sore point for the USA.

Despite the many sanctions, Siberian natural gas still makes its way into many parts of Europe, since it is difficult to deny the reality of geography and the huge pipeline infrastructure put in place to facilitate supply.

The Nordstream pipelines 1 and 2 were the latest expansions of what is shown in this film, back in 1970. (NS1 was “mysteriously” blown up on September 26, 2022 although Seymour Hersh has explained away the “mystery”). Nordstream 2 still functions, but given geopolitical commitments, Germany no longer wants Siberian natural gas—in October of 2022, Chancellor Scholz refused Russia’s offer to resume shipment via NS2.

This Echo film was made by the Darer Corporation, a newsreel production company located in New York City. It was owned and operated by Stanley P. Darer (1934-2013). Interestingly, many of the Echo films do not carry titles, and begin in the middle of things, in the Classical manner (in medias res).