The construction of the Nordstream 2 pipeline began in 2011. When completed, it would increase Russia’s gas export to Europe from the present 55 billion cubic meters to 110 billion. With the completion of the Nordstream 2, Russia’s export of natural gas to Germany and other European countries can be doubled and of course countries en route, the transit such as Ukraine will be phased out. In recent days, the Joe Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Fortuna—Russia’s vessel—and its owner. Representatives from both political parties in the US Congress announced their readiness on 17 February 2021 to cooperate with the White House with the objective of obstructing what they call Russia’s destructive influence and also make sure the lucrative pipeline is not going to be completed.
Opponents and proponents of the pipeline construction
The government of Russia, companies involved in the construction of the project, the government of Austria, and some politicians in Germany believe that this pipeline would secure the security of the supply of energy to Europe and would therefore contribute to the realization of the goals of sustainable development in the European Union. Proponents say this project, in spite of the geopolitical concerns, would result in the supply of the energy needs of Germany. In contrast, opponents such as some officials of the European Union, Ukraine, and the US administration (Trump and Biden) and many members of the US Congress believe the opposite and do not want to see the completion of this pipeline. The European Parliament, in reaction to the detention of Navalny in late January 2021, demanded the suspension of the Nordstream 2 project. Of course, the same day, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, supported the completion of the Nordstream 2 project and said that the primary policy of Germany towards this project has not changed. Opponents believe that this pipeline would provide Russia with more economic and political leverage. Also, some countries would become vulnerable to the termination of the transfer of energy or manipulation of the price of the gas by Russia and of course Ukraine to Russian attacks. Biden did not refer in his statement in the Munich Security Conference to the Nordstream 2; yet, he warned that Russia is seeking to weaken the European project and NATO as well as the determination and unity of the transatlantic. The United States considers this project a bad deal which would expose Central Europe and Ukraine to the threats of Russia. Supporters of the environment also believe that the construction of the gas pipeline is not compatible with the climate change objectives of the European Union. There is also another issue: that more dependency of Europe on Moscow would jeopardize the security of the European Union. In general, increased dependency on Russia and the consequent strengthening of Russia and or the destruction of the fragile ecosystem or the loss of transit income by Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine are the main reasons of opposition to the Nordstream 2 project.
The position of the government of Germany
Germany believes that the Nordstream 2 project would be completed and therefore Berlin is seeking to convince the United States that it would provide a stronger mechanism in order to prevent Russia from manipulating the energy market. Germany has also expressed support for the construction of LNG terminals in Europe for the export of the US LNG. Germany has also said that it would stop importing gas from Russia whenever necessary. Germany has also tabled this proposal that when the gas is exported from Russia to Europe, the behavior of Russia should be monitored. Any approval by the US administration for this proposal would mean that the US has climbed down and has ignored Washington’s allies. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has declared that the policy of Germany towards this pipeline has not changed however Biden needs to be consulted in this respect. Of course, Germany was one of the EU governments that called for an investigation on the poisoning of Navalny and Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, had said that the future of this pipeline may be endangered. One of the representatives of the German Green Party in the European Parliament said the termination of the construction of the pipeline is to the benefit of the whole of Europe. Inside the German government, some refer to the destructive activities of Russia such as the detention of Alexi Navalny the main opposition figure in Russia. Even though the political leaders of Germany unanimously condemn Russia’s actions against Navalny, Angela Merkel and some other politicians in Germany believe that this infrastructural project should be separated from other political issues Europe has with Russia.
The way ahead
One of the reasons behind Washington’s opposition to the completion of Nordstream 2 is the US intention and plans to export LNG to Europe. The United States believes that Europe does not implement its security commitments and even though Brussels would require security guarantees from the United States, it will surrender to Russia in the first possible opportunity. On the other hand, US President Biden is not interested that after four years of inappropriate relations between Berlin and Washington, more tensions would overshadow bilateral relations. Also, the US deal with Germany over the Nordstream issue might create grievances for other US allies such as Ukraine, Poland and Baltic governments. Many in Europe and the United States consider Nordstream 2 as a geopolitical project because they believe that if this project as purely commercial and investment-oriented, the present pipeline which transits through the soil of Ukraine, Belarus and Poland, could have been upgraded with fewer expenses. Some opponents believe that sanctions are insufficient because sanctions had been imposed in the past and other essential assets of Russia should be brought under the sanctions. Of course, even if the Nordstream 2 pipeline is completed, there is no possibility for the transfer of Russia’s gas through this pipeline due to the sanctions imposed on the contracts and also insurance companies. At the moment, a remarkable number of companies have stopped their cooperation and engagement with this project. And Russia is trying to turn this project to a totally Russian project and would employ companies that have no dealings with the United States. Russia would also refuse to employ American experts or deal with the US dollar. Even though such measures would be difficult to implement, Russia would consider such options against the US obstructions and opponents. The main reason behind such tensions is the time schedule of the implementation of this project because under the present circumstances, relations between Russia and the European Union and the transatlantic relations are suffering from remarkable crises. It seems that given the efforts of the United States to repair transatlantic relations as well as defuse current tensions, relations between Russia and the European Union would be escalated in various areas and the dispute over the completion of Nordstream 2 would be one of the escalating issues in the future.