On Wednesday, Germany and the United States announced an agreement to allow the construction of Nord Stream 2 (NS2) to Europe without further American sanctions. The Nord Stream 2 agreement stated that Germany and the United States will oppose any future Russian attempt to exploit the pipeline as a political instrument.
The two governments said in a joint statement that they were unified in their determination to hold Russia accountable for aggression and harmful activities by imposing costs through sanctions and other mechanisms, referring to Russian support for rebels in Ukraine.
Long-standing fears exist that Nord Stream 2 will give Russia too much control over the European gas supply, or that gas could be shut off to Russia’s rivals. However, the pipeline is nearly built and has German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approval. Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline that would allow Germany to effectively double its Russian gas imports. According to DW News, Nord Stream 2’s delivery system is capable of transporting up to 55 billion cubic meters (1.942 trillion cubic feet) of gas each year.
The 1,200-kilometer (746-mile) route connecting the Ust-Luga area near Saint Petersburg and Greifswald in northern Germany was agreed upon by Berlin and Moscow. The pipes would run over the Baltic Sea, mostly following the route of the already-operational Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
Meanwhile, the two countries agreed to subsidize alternative energy and economic projects in Ukraine and Poland, which see the project as a security concern. “Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon, or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine,” the joint statement states, “Germany will take action at the national level and press for effective European-level measures, including sanctions”.
Both Germany and the United States have pledged to establish a USD 1 billion fund to help Ukraine diversify its energy sources, with Germany contributing an initial USD 175 million. In a bow to Poland, Germany has agreed to accept the ‘Three Oceans Initiative,’ an EU-sponsored initiative aimed at improving energy security among nations bordering the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas.
However, opposition to Nord Stream 2 remains strong. Ukraine and Poland have already spoken out against the agreement. The two countries’ foreign ministers, Dmytro Kuleba and Zbigniew Rau, released a joint statement on Wednesday night, calling the agreement reached “insufficient.”
Since its inception in 2015, Nord Stream 2 has been a source of controversy in the United States, with fears that the project will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, so bolstering Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States fear it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russia, as EU members already rely on Russia for 40% of their gas needs.
Furthermore, since Russia has the ability to transport gas straight to its most important customer, Germany, the Russian government would find it much easier to shut down current pipelines that run via Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is irritated by the 2014 Crimean crisis with Russia and a previously established pipeline between the two countries. Ukraine believes that once NS2 is built, Moscow will be able to bypass the Ukrainian pipeline, costing Kyiv money. The proposed route avoids nations in Central and Eastern Europe like Slovakia and Poland, denying them the opportunity to earn lucrative gas transit fees.