Out at sea, far from prying eyes, work on Nord Stream 2 remains unfinished. Russia and Germany want to complete the gas pipeline linking the two countries as soon as possible, but others are doing all they can to stop it happening. Environmental NGOs, Europe, Ukraine and the United States are all set on preventing a project which is as much geopolitical as it is economic. Our correspondents in Russia, Germany and Ukraine report.
Will Nord Stream 2, the second of two gas pipelines linking Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, ever be operational? In physical terms it is almost finished. Work was suspended in 2019 with over 150 kilometres to go, after US sanctions led European companies participating in the project to pull out.
The United States and several EU countries, have joined forces with Nord Stream 2’s most vociferous opponent: Ukraine. Kiev sees the pipeline as an attempt by Russia to deprive it of vital gas transit revenues and further threaten its security even as war rages on in the Donbas.
More broadly, many of those who see Vladimir Putin’s Russia as an opponent of European stability and unity argue that the pipeline runs directly counter to the continent’s attempts to contain him. Others question whether making it easier and cheaper to transport Russian gas to Europe is really the best way to reduce CO2 emissions.
But Nord Stream 2’s Russian and German backers insist that it is a purely commercial project. They are determined to finish the job and resumed work this year. Joe Biden’s decision, in May, to waive sanctions on the pipeline company and its CEO has given them hope – and raised spirits in the German coastal regions that stand to benefit directly.
If it is completed, the question of what to do with the pipeline could prove the first big headache for the next German government. Polls suggest that September’s elections will yield big gains for the Green Party, which has opposed the project and whose supporters expect it to deliver on that.