What is Nord Stream 2 fuss all about? Read on

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: May 21, 2021, 12:19 AM(IST)

Nord Stream 2 project (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The real story lies between the lines

In 2001, America invaded Afghanistan. 20 years and over 2 trillion dollars later, Washington came to terms with the fruitlessness of the war. So it decided to wrap, and withdraw troops.

Something similar happened in Europe. America waged a war not on a country, but a construction. But two years later, it realised the futility of it.

This is about Nord Stream 2. It's a Russian gas pipeline project. It's a pretty controversial one. The Trump administration slapped sanctions on it in 2019 and early 2021.

America had egg on its face, when construction carried on. If anything, the sanctions only alienated America from one of its key European allies: Germany.

Now, US President Joe Biden is in the White House. And he is being torn by conflicting demands at home and outside.

Sanctions against Nord Stream 2 enjoy bipartisan support in the US. It also carries great geopolitical and strategic importance. But upping the ante against Nord Stream 2 could cost America dearly.

So, his administration has tried to kill three birds with one stone. 

The original Nord Stream runs from Vyborg in Russia to Lumbin in Germany.

It was inaugurated in 2011. Nord Stream 2 expands this system. It is designed to carry 110 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia to Germany every year. The project is being built at a cost of 11 billion dollars. It runs 764 miles under the Baltic Sea.

And Russian state energy firm Gazprom is leading the venture. The project is now 95 per cent complete. There's only 100 km of the sub-sea pipeline left to lay. Nord Stream 2 is expected to be ready by the end of 2021. This project is strategically important to the US.

Washington is an exporter of natural gas to Europe. But Russian gas is cheaper than American. So, basically, America fears losing business in Europe once Nord Stream 2 is completed.

That's not it. America also fears losing its influence.

Washington believes Russia could use Nord Stream 2 to increase Europe's dependency on Moscow. It's the same cold war-era mentality.

And it's because of this that the sanctions against Nord Stream 2 enjoy bipartisan support at home. There's also geopolitics that is closely entangled in the project. This Nord Stream 2 bypasses Ukraine and by doing so, deprives it of lucrative transit fee. This is Moscow hammering Ukraine's fight against Russian aggression.

And this is something US cannot be seen openly supporting. It has always sided with Ukraine.

When Biden entered the White House, some critics said he may be able to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel into dropping the Nord Stream 2 project.

That has clearly has not happened. Instead, Berlin pressed Washington to drop sanctions. To Germany, Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project.

And America's opposition to it is a hurdle for German economy.

Germany also happens to be a country US must court if it wants to get back to enjoying the confidence of its European and NATO allies.

So, the Biden administration caved in and planned its safest exit from the war on Nord Stream 2.

What did it do?

Number one: To appease Americans, the Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions on ships working on the project. Also sanctions on Russian entities linked to the Nord Stream 2.

Number two: To reaffirm America's unwavering support to Ukraine, the Biden administration openly criticised the Nord Stream 2.

A release from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the following:

"Nord stream 2 is a bad deal — for Germany, for Ukraine, and for our central and eastern European allies and partners.The department is tracking efforts to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and is evaluating information regarding entities that appear to be involved."

Here's the real deal.

To appease Germany, the Biden administration waived Trump-era sanctions on the company building Nord Stream 2 and also its CEO.

How is the Biden administration justifying this? It is in national interest, says Blinken.

It is to 'demonstrate the administration's commitment to energy security in Europe'.

The real story lies between the lines.

Moreover, it tells that the Biden administration prioritises winning over European ally over engaging Russia in a futile geopolitical tug of war.

And this is the biggest takeaway from the Nord Stream 2 story.

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