Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The Russian government is taking no chances with the pipelaying vessel Akademik Cherskiy currently sailing to Europe from the port of Nakhodka on the Russian Pacific coast, to complete the Nord Stream II pipeline. The vessel is under naval escort on its journey to the Baltic.
The Russian state energy company Gazprom purchased the specialist pipelaying ship in 2015, correctly anticipating that the United States would attempt to sabotage the project. The Swiss pipelaying company Allseas recently abandoned the project with 160 km of pipe left to complete, under threat of US sanctions.
According to the Russian website Military Review, as the pipelayer approaches the Suez Canal, it is being escorted by the Baltic Fleet patrol ship Yaroslav the Wise. Previously it was accompanied, as far as Ceylon, by the large anti-submarine ship from the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Vinogradov. According to Russian military sources a frigate of the Syrian based Russian naval squadron will take over the escort role from the Suez Canal onwards.
It seems clear that Moscow believes the Trump administration is capable of reckless behavior to stop completion of the Nord Stream Pipeline, with re-election looming in November. This view has been strengthened by the brazen US assassination of the Iranian General Soleimani whilst on a diplomatic mission in Iraq. A number of senior Iraqi officers were also killed in the attack. Iraq is supposedly a US ally. The illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker by the British authorities off Gibraltar is another indication of the lengths to which Washington and its allies will go to achieve their geo-political objectives and impress electors. Apart from direct action, an ‘accident’ in busy waters or a ‘pirate raid’off Somalia, would be all to easy to arrange.
However, a reflection of German government determination to support Russia in finishing the project is the annual report of Uniper, a German company participating in the project. The report states clearly that the Nord Stream II gas pipeline will eventually be commissioned despite a delay.
"The Nord Stream II gas pipeline is an important project to ensure the security of gas supplies to Europe. We expect the Nord Stream II pipeline to be launched despite delays and will transport up to 55 Billion cubic meters of gas per year to us," the report says. At the same time, the company notes that, despite the suspension of pipe laying, "all other work on the project continues according to plan."
Regarding the financial risks to Uniper that arise from participating in a gas pipeline construction project, the company notes, "the financial division of the Uniper Group has certain contractual rights that can reduce financial risks." "Nord Stream II has confirmed that it is working to mitigate the negative consequences of the suspension of pipe laying and to ensure the commissioning of the gas pipeline," the report reads.
Nord Stream II is an international project for the construction of a gas pipeline that will run across the bottom of the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast to Germany, bypassing transit states, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other Eastern European and Baltic countries.
The new 1,200 kilometer pipeline, basically following the same route as Nord Stream I, traverses economic zones and territorial waters of five countries, namely Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The pipeline's capacity will be 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year.
In late December 2019, US President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense for 2020 fiscal year started on October 1, which obliges the Administration to impose sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream pipelines.
On February 4, Handelsblatt newspaper reported, citing US diplomatic sources, that the US intends to impose new sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Russia attempts to complete its construction. According to Tass, European investors or companies planning to buy gas flowing through the pipeline could be affected this time.
However, certain companies have been ready to defy US threats. The Dutch flagged ship Nordnes and the Cypriot Rockpiper are currently working on the project preparing the pipe bed.
Assuming the pipeline is finished by the end of the year, it remains to be seen whether the United States will continue to antagonize Germany, one of its key allies in Europe, once the November elections are safely out of the way. Nord Stream II Is vital for Germany as it runs down its nuclear industry.