Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- Russian energy company Gazprom has resumed construction on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, despite extensive U.S. efforts to block it. As the work resumed, the US Congress passed the new National Defense Authorization Act including further additional sanctions, of which many are aimed at Russia and countries that do business with it. They include Turkey for the purchase of the S400 Missiles. New sanctions against Nord Stream 2 are directed at individuals and companies that support the project including some in Angela Merkel’s own parliamentary constituency.

The Trump administration brought work on Nord Stream 2 to a halt in December 2019 when it imposed sanctions on all pipelay vessel operators involved in the project. Allseas halted work before the sanctions penalties took effect, avoiding liability but bringing further construction to a stop.

Since then the U.S. has added new sanctions measures targeting insurers and certification bodies with involvement in Nord Stream 2, prompting Norwegian company DNV GL to back out of its role in certifying quality control on board Gazprom's pipelayers. 

Despite these setbacks, the Russian pipelaying barge Fortuna resumed work on the line in German waters on 11 December, the German Waterways and Shipping Authority Stralsund says. The authority issued a notice to mariners warning of active pipelay activity just offshore, and this week Gazprom confirmed that it is laying a short 2.6 km stretch of line in shallow water. The work represents a small part of the 160 kilometer segment that remains unbuilt. The majority of the remaining work is in Danish waters.

Denmark, a close ally of the United States has been consistently hostile to the pipeline including passing special legislation to obstruct its completion. However Denmark is also a neighbor of Germany the projects biggest backer in the EU. In addition, through its Greenland territory it has maritime interests in the Arctic Ocean that will sooner or later require negotiations with Russia if they are to be successfully developed. Playing hardball with its neighbors now to please the United States may cause expensive problems in the future.

The work on the pipeline has resumed using the anchored barge Fortuna capable of working in shallow water and not the Akademik Cherskiy specially brought from the Far East to complete the contract. Three tugboats and Russian supply vessels, the Baltiyskiy Issledovatel and the Katun, are working with the Fortuna in the Baltic Sea.

 “We have both the program to implement the project, as well as specific steps that should be taken,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, speaking to reporters in Moscow. “We are also well aware that the United States of America won’t stop trying to prevent Russia from implementing not only this project, but also its foreign policy and international activities in general."

It is noteworthy that Germany and Russia have waited until it is clear that President Trump will not continue in office after January 20 2021 and that Washington is very much distracted by internal disputes, before restarting work. Many European diplomats hope that the new Biden regime in Washington will be less aggressive in its approach to Europe in general and Nord Stream 2 in particular. For its part it is noticeable that Russia has acted with discretion with very little mention of the definitive resumption of work in the government controlled media.

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