Report: Nord Stream 2 Will Be Completed By Mid-September
German authorities expect that pipelay work on the last section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in German waters will be completed by September 12, according to Bloomberg. The news confirms Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement last week that just eight nautical miles of pipeline remain before the Russian pipelay vessel Fortuna has completed her task.
The Nord Stream 2 partnership, led by Russian state gas company Gazprom, has made rapid progress on the dual-line project despite American sanctions. Though the U.S. Congress has passed measures to penalize Nord Stream 2's backers and suppliers, the Biden administration has declined to sanction developer Nord Stream 2 AG or the European companies contributing to the construction effort. To improve its relationship with Germany, which strongly supports the pipeline, the White House has effectively allowed the work to proceed by limiting its sanctions enforcement efforts to small Russian firms and vessels. This list includes three new entities announced on Friday - a small Moscow-based construction company, along with the Russian OSV Ostap Sheremeta and her owners. These measures are not expected to have a material effect on the pipeline's progress.
The line gives Russia a new way to transport its abundant natural gas production to the European market, potentially bypassing shoreside networks in Poland and Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is increasingly concerned that Moscow will use Nord Stream 2 to cut its neighbors out of the gas transportation business, depriving Kiev of much-needed revenue. Ukraine has been engaged in a low-level conflict with Russian-backed separatist militias in its eastern Donbass region for years, and the new gas route could give Russia new leverage in border disputes.
In a press conference in Berlin on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Germany must recognize that Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical threat in Russian hands. "Not to notice that this is a dangerous weapon, not only for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe, is wrong," he said, according to Reuters.
Gazprom's pipeline contract with Ukraine expires in 2024, and German President Angela Merkel has promised to put considerable effort into ensuring that the deal is renewed. Her long-running tenure in office will end soon, however, and Zelenskiy said that the current state of agreement over continued gas transit through Ukraine is "too general." In a separate meeting with Vladimir Putin on Friday, Merkel did not secure a firm deal for the continuation of Ukraine's gas transport services.