Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- Work is to restart on the completion of the troubled Nordstream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany under the Baltic.

Work on the 1230 km double pipeline is almost complete but was interrupted by US sanctions when the Dutch Allseas Group withdrew its specialist pipelaying ships from the contract in December 2019.

The announcement regarding the project's continuation was first reported by German radio broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk following a statement by the Baltic Sea Waterways and Shipping Office in Stralsund.

The United States claims that it fears for the security of a Europe dependent on Russia for Gas. They object to the EU countries giving money to Russia whilst the US spends money to defend it. This despite the fact that the US itself gave 21 billion dollars to Russia for imports in 2019 mainly for energy and Platinum.

However, the US is genuinely concerned about the loss of transit revenues from existing pipelines across allied countries Ukraine and Poland. Washington would undoubtedly prefer a continuation of the present situation where Gazprom is subject to possible interference with gas supplies to Europe. The US would also like to see Europe fill its gas shortfall with more expensive US Liquid Petroleum Gas brought by tanker across the Atlantic.

Nordstream 2 has not named the ship that will handle the pipelaying, saying they will communicate this information in due course. At the same time, according to the Akademik Cherskiy has sailed from its base port Muckram into the Baltic. The Russian pipelaying vessel is owned by the Gazprom Group and after a journey from the Far East is now refitted to be able to complete the pipeline.

The restart comes three weeks after the apparent defeat of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections. Whilst all US governments have objected to gas links between Europe and Russia, the Trump administration has been especially virulent in its opposition.

The project has been further hindered by new US sanctions introduced in October under PEESA (Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act), aimed at 120 European companies providing goods and services to the pipeline construction project. The latest company to withdraw its services is the Norwegian certification company, Det Norske Veritas-Germanischer Lloyd (DNV GL), tasked with checking the conformity of the project with international norms.

A total of around 75 kilometers are still missing to complete the project - a good 16 kilometers within the German exclusive economic zone, the remaining 60 kilometers on Danish territory. According to the company spokesman, the 2.6 kilometers, which are now expected to be continued from December 5th, were already planned. Nordstream had the planning "adapted to the project situation", more he could not say at the moment, he said.

On 27 November it was announced that the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania aims to set up a non-profit foundation for the Nord Stream 2 project, under whose protection the pipeline can continue to be built despite the threats of US sanctions. The Americans had announced punitive measures to all companies involved, which is why all work on the Baltic Sea had been stopped since last December. With regard to the foundation, insiders speak of a "clever legal trick". Ex-Prime Minister Erwin Sellering (SPD) is to become the head of the foundation.

Russia has described these and other sanctions as ‘unfair competition’.

Nordstream 2 is owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom but 50% financed by European companies Uniper, Wintershall (German) Shell (Anglo-Dutch), OMV (Austrian) and Engie (France). Originally the EU supported and even helped finance Nordstream 1 but since then the enlargement in 2004, taking in the Baltic States and Poland who oppose the pipeline, has created divided loyalties within the Brussels Commission.

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