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Russia Complains to US over ‘Poll Interference’

September 11, 2021

Russia announced on Friday that it had completed the construction of a subsea pipeline to Germany, which could allow it to double valuable gas exports to Europe via the Baltic Sea while bypassing and cutting off a source of revenue for political foe Ukraine. Although German regulators have yet to approve gas flows, the completion of the Nord Stream 2 construction stage means Russia has increased its energy exporting capabilities to Europe from both the north in the Baltic Sea and the south in the Black Sea, where it operates the TurkStream pipeline.

“The head of the management board, Alexei Miller, informed the morning meeting at Gazprom that Nord Stream 2 construction was completed today (Friday),” Gazprom said. Five years ago, the company began construction of the 1,200-kilometer Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany. The $11 billion project came to a halt at the end of 2019 when then-US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions. Around a year later, construction resumed with the involvement of Russia’s own vessels. The route, when combined with the existing Nord Stream pipeline, will more than double annual export capacity to 110 billion cubic meters, accounting for roughly half of Russia’s total gas exports to Europe each year.

The project has been chastised by the United States and Ukraine. According to Washington, this will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies. The US is attempting to increase sales of sea-borne liquefied natural gas to Europe, and has referred to its super-chilled gas exports as “molecules of freedom.” Gazprom is Europe’s largest natural gas supplier, accounting for more than one-third of the region’s gas market. Russia said on Thursday that commercial gas supplies via Nord Stream 2 would not begin until a German regulator gave the go-ahead.

The Nord Stream 2 AG consortium, based in Switzerland, said in a statement that it had finished welding the pipeline with the assistance of a Russian vessel. “The necessary pre-commissioning activities will be carried out with the goal of putting the pipeline into operation by the end of this year,” it stated.

The official decision by Gazprom of the completion of the project was met with skepticism in Kiev, which risks losing millions and millions of dollars in gas transit fees if Moscow suspends gas supplies via Ukraine. Russia’s five-year gas transit agreement with Ukraine will expire in 2024. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that if Ukraine is to continue, it must demonstrate goodwill. “Constructed does not imply that it will be put on stream. And this will not happen until the pipeline has been certified.”

According to Carlos Torres Diaz, head of Power and Gas Markets at Rystad Energy, it takes time for gas to flow through Nord Stream 2 pipes. “There hasn’t really been a reaction from the market so far,” he said, “so I guess this just confirms expectations that no commercial deliveries are expected in the short term.”

The Kremlin stated that “everyone” was interested in Nord Stream 2 receiving approval. Before Germany’s energy regulator approves Nord Stream 2, it must comply with European internet services rules, which require pipeline owners to be separate from the suppliers of gas flowing through them in order to ensure fair competition.

Uniper of Germany, Wintershall Dea of BASF, Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, OMV of Austria, and Engie of France are Gazprom’s Western partners. The German regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, stated that it does not know how long it will take to make a decision on certification, but it has the authority to penalize the consortium if it begins operations without permission.

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