US ‘ready for Nord Stream 2 diplomacy’

18 January 2021

Halt construction of pipeline and we will discuss lifting sanctions, says Biden advisor

Route of under-construction Nord Stream 2 pipeline shown as dotted green line

Nicholas Burns, an advisor to US President-elect Joe Biden, has called for talks with Europe over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, set to run between Russia and Europe.

But first, he said, work on the €9 billion project must stop.

In a statement, reported in The Moscow Times, he said, “The Europeans must stop the construction of Nord Stream 2, and the Americans must suspend the sanctions. This will give the new US administration the opportunity to confidentially and calmly speak with the German government and other countries involved.”

The statement has been viewed as a slight softening of the stance taken by President Donald Trump’s administration, which instigated sanctions in 2019, and has repeatedly condemned Germany and other European nations for accepting gas from Russia.

Last month, the US published its National Defense Authorisation Act, in which it spoke of “expansion of sanctions concerning the construction of Nord Stream 2”.

When sanctions were initially imposed, the US threatened the companies involved in the project with asset freezing and visa restrictions. These companies include the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which is developing the pipeline, as well as Germany’s Wintershall and Uniper groups, the Dutch-British company Shell, France’s Engie and Austria’s OMV.

Other companies have abandoned the project, due to the US pressure.

The 1,200km Nord Stream 2 pipeline – set to run from Ust-Luga in Russia, across the Baltic Sea (on an almost identical route to that of the original Nord Stream pipeline) to Greifswald in Germany.

If completed, the pipeline will carry up to 55 billion m3 of gas per year from Russia to Europe and, with Europe’s domestic gas production in decline, the US is particularly concerned about its growing reliance on Russian energy.

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