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The honeymoon of Germany and the US: death sentence for Nord Stream 2?

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While the transatlantic honeymoon between Germany and the US is not over yet, in weeks or even days Washington and Berlin could have an awkward conversation. The topic will be the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that the Teutonic country is building in cooperation with Russia. What are the chances that Berlin will turn its back on the project?

Prior to Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential elections, Washington and Berlin had long disagreed on this energy construction. It will have to supply Russian gas through the Baltic Sea and, combined with the Turk Stream – which runs through the Black Sea – will seek to give Russia the opportunity to sell its blue fuel to the EU. The laying of pipes will thus avoid going through countries that oppose its construction.

Discussions around the project died down for a time during the presidential campaign and are about to resurface with renewed force.

Will Germany use the Navalny case as a tool to influence Russia?

Despite resistance from Poland, Ukraine and Latvia, the official position of the German government has not changed: Nord Stream 2, says German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a purely commercial project in which politicians should not interfere. Cheap Russian gas will be needed by Germany as it to bring the transition from coal and nuclear power to renewable sources to fruition.

The United States is still in its thirteen. In the North American country there is a bipartisan consensus that Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical project. Both Republicans and Democrats say the pipeline would leave Germany heavily dependent on Russia, NATO’s most obvious adversary.

“All this opposition has increased even more since the poisoning and now the imprisonment of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (…) In the past, Western sanctions have left Putin indifferent [to any pressure tool]. Stop the construction of the A strategic gas pipeline, many European [analysts] suppose, could attract their attention”, highlights Andreas Kluth in his article for the Bloomberg agency.

While Merkel admitted that Germany “reserves the right” to punish those involved in the case of Navalny in Russia, she added that despite that Berlin continues to support the Russian-German gas project.

“The position on Nord Stream 2 is not affected at the moment; it is a project on which the position of the federal government is known,” Merkel was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In this context, Germany’s insistent perseverance is worrying, Kluth notes.

Merkel is not the only European leader supporting the project. Her Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz, also noted that he does not see the need to make the construction of the gas pipeline dependent on the situation around Navalny.

The countries involved in the project are scared of US sanctions?

Tensions between the United States and Germany continue to mount. For more than a year, Washington has threatened to sanction the companies that participate in the construction of the gas pipeline. The announcement of the new restrictions caused most of the companies to withdraw from the project. As a result, the laying of pipes was delayed. 

To resist this economic imperialism, as some German experts call it, the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the Nord Stream 2 reaches land, has created the Climate Protection Fund. This entity, which classifies the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as “the most important component for the protection of the environment”, will allow German companies to complete the project without running the risk of being sanctioned by Washington. 

“My guess has been that [Merkel] clings to Nord Stream 2 to keep the fragile peace in her coalition with the Social Democrats. But she also knows that this partnership will only last until the federal elections in September. Then she will step down and a new government will take over. The most likely scenario will be that the Christian Democrats [Christian Democratic Union of Germany] remain in power, but this time they will associate with the Greens,” predicts the journalist.

The new German government could then announce “the obvious”, according to Kluth: that this pipeline “should never have been built and will never contain anything but air,” he concludes. 

Kluth comes to this conclusion based on the fact that the German environmental associations Nabu and WWF had previously accused the Government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania of “using taxpayer money to undermine climate protection commitments”.

Despite this bleak forecast, more than 90% of the Russian-German project has already been completed. Recently, a ship specializing in pipe-laying has started work in Danish waters. 

As if that weren’t enough, Nord Stream AG is likely to be able to complete the main work related to the construction of the pipeline a few months before Germany holds the elections. According to Bloomberg, construction of the pipeline is expected to be completed for the most part in June 2021.

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