The pipeline Nord Stream 2 would connect Germany directly to Russian gas supply, but it has split opinions in Europe and beyond for years. The tube’s construction in the Baltic Sea is well advanced, but the project dampens efforts to rekindle good transatlantic relations, as the US is strongly opposed to the project and has imposed sanctions on the companies involved. This article provides a chronological overview of the twists and turns surrounding the project and will be updated regularly.
German, U.S. and international media such as Handelsblatt, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times reported in mid-February that the administration of new President Joe Biden might be willing to make a deal with Germany on Nord Stream 2, according to government sources. It remained unclear whether Biden would even consider to do so in the face of clear bipartisan opposition in the U.S. Congress. A deal could involve waiving sanctions in turn for an agreement that Germany would shut off future natural gas deliveries through the pipeline, for example in case Russia put pressure on Ukraine.
After more than a year of threatening to do so, the U.S. had introduced first sanctions on 19 January, former president Donald Trump’s final full day in office. The administration sanctioned the Russian ship Fortuna, which later resumed pipe-laying in Danish waters on 6 February.
The pipeline was originally scheduled for completion by the end of 2019. About 2,300 km out of approximately 2,460 km had been laid by December 2019, when Swiss pipelaying company Allseas suspended activity following the introduction of U.S. sanctions legislation. By mid-February 2021, about 150 km – 75 km per strand of the twin pipeline – still had to be completed, mostly in Danish and to some extent in German waters.
19 February 2021: The U.S. might hold off on sanctioning German companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project, as the Biden administration seeks to halt the project without antagonizing a close European ally, Bloomberg reports. It would instead put only a small number of Russia-linked entities on the list.
16 February 2021: The Biden administration might be willing to make a deal with Berlin on Nord Stream 2, according to German media sources. However, it remains unclear whether Biden would even consider doing so in the face of clear bipartisan opposition in the U.S. Congress. A deal could involve waiving sanctions in exchange for an agreement that Germany would stop future natural gas deliveries through the pipeline, for example in case Russia puts pressure on Ukraine.
9 February 2021: German environmental NGO Umwelthilfe publishes a letter written by German finance minister Olaf Scholz to former U.S. counterpart Steven Mnuchin. In the letter, dated 7 August 2020 and reported by Zeit in September 2020, Germany offers financial support for German liquid natural gas (LNG) importers to enable them to directly import U.S. LNG in a bid to prevent the U.S. from imposing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
9 February 2021: German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier defends the pipeline by pointing at the “bigger picture”, including Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during WWII, in an interview with German newspaper Rheinische Post. The presidents’ comments leave Ukraine angry as they ignore the Ukrainian victims of the war. The Ukrainian ambassador says the president’s stance was met with “surprise and indignation” in Kyiv.
6 February 2021: The construction of the pipeline with the Russian vessel Fortuna restarts in Danish waters despite U.S. sanctions.
1 February 2021: France urges Germany to drop the Nord Stream 2 project in light of the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
21 January 2021: The European Parliament calls for a halt to Nord Stream 2 after the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On the same day, Merkel reaffirms her support for Nord Stream 2, despite growing opposition in Germany and the EU. “My basic attitude has not yet changed to the point where I say the project should not exist,” Merkel says at a press conference in Berlin.
19 January 2021: The U.S. announces sanctions for the first time – on the Russian pipe laying vessel Fortuna. The German government says it “notes” the decision “with regret.” Previously, there had only been a threat of sanctions.
15 January 2021: Nord Stream 2 receives a renewed construction permit from Germany’s Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) for a short stretch in German waters after the original permit had run out. Rresearchers from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) question whether Germany needs the pipeline for its natural gas supply.
6 January 2021: The parliament of the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would land, sets up a “climate” foundation in an effort to circumvent the threat of U.S. sanctions. To justify its purpose of finalising Nord Stream 2, the pipeline is highlighted as a special contribution to energy security and a source of natural gas, the energy transition’s “bridging technology.” Environmentalists criticise the plans and say they will fuel the climate crisis. German political analyst Thomas O’Donnell of the Hertie School of Governance says the plan is unlikely to work, as “no company […] will sell equipment to this foundation.”
1 January 2021: The U.S. Congress authorises new sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the pipeline.
28 December 2020: The Russian pipe laying vessel Fortuna leaves the Nord Stream 2 construction site in the Baltic Sea, indicating that the construction in German waters may have been completed.
11 December 2020: The pipeline’s construction continues with the Russian pipe laying vessel Fortuna, which completes a short 2.6 km stretch in German waters.
30 November 2020: Certification company DNV-GL suspends certification work for vessels involved in the pipeline project citing possible sanctions under the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act (PEESA) as the reason.
23 November 2020: The U.S. increases pressure on people and companies associated with the construction of the pipeline and its leaders make several direct phone calls. “We are making these calls to warn them and give them time to get out,” said a U.S. administration representative.
3 September 2020: German politicians call for halt to the Nord Stream 2 project following the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Norbert Röttgen, a lawmaker with German chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), calls for a “clear European response” and says “diplomatic rituals” would no longer suffice as a reaction to Russia’s “inhumane politics.”
28 August 2020: The poisoning of Alexei Navalny and the completion of the natural gas pipeline are “separate issues,” and linking them would “not be appropriate,” German chancellor Angela Merkel says during her annual press conference in Berlin. Navalny was treated a hospital in Germany earlier in the month after being poisoned in Russia.
12 August 2020: Utility company Uniper, one of the investors in the Nord Stream 2 project, publishes a report saying the pipeline could be delayed or even fail altogether due to the threat of U.S. sanctions.
7 August 2020: Three Republican senators threaten that the U.S. will impose “crushing legal and economic sanctions” on the port of Sassnitz on the German Baltic Sea, a key hub for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
5 August 2020: Environmental Action Germany (DUH) says it is suing to stop Nord Stream 2 from going into operation over methane leakage concerns.
15 July 2020: The U.S. threatens investors to ditch Nord Stream 2. It is meant as a “clear warning” to companies that aiding the project would not be tolerated by Washington. “Get out now, or risk the consequences,” secretary of state Mike Pompeo said.
18 June 2020: All parties in the German parliament reject the economic sanctions threatened by the U.S. In a statement released by parliament’s economy and energy committee, the MPs said that “there has been solid cross-party unanimity that these extraterritorial sanctions are in violation of international law and cannot be accepted.”
8 June 2020: German officials condemn U.S. plans to expand NS2 sanctions, shortly after several U.S. senators, including Ted Cruz (Republican) and Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat) presented a bill that would expand existing sanctions and penalise all companies involved in the project.
May 2020: Russia defies threats from the U.S. and deploys a new vessel to finish the construction of Nord Stream 2. The vessel, Akademik Cherskiy, replaces a ship provided by Swiss company Allseas, which was withdrawn from the construction in December 2019 following U.S. threats.
19 February 2020: German economy minister Peter Altmaier criticises the Nord Stream 2 sanctions and says the importance of Russian gas for Germany is set to grow further amid the German energy transition. Altmaier says he regrets the decision by the U.S. to impose sanctions and stresses that Germany is going to “need more natural gas, not less” as it phases out coal-fired power production over the next years.
11 January 2020: Nord Stream 2 could be finished by the end of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021, Russian president Vladimir Putin says during a press conference, following a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow.
30 December 2019: Russian and Ukrainian companies sign a final five-year agreement safeguarding Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine.
21 December 2019: The Swiss offshore contractor Allseas suspends its Nord Stream 2 pipe-laying activities, anticipating the enactment of the U.S. sanctions as President Donald Trump signs legislation. The move effectively halts construction for about a year.
19 December 2019: German chancellor Angela Merkel criticises the U.S. sanctions to be imposed on companies working on Nord Stream 2, shortly after the relevant legislation was approved by the U.S. Senate. “We are opposed to extraterritorial sanctions,” Merkel said during question time in the national parliament.
8 February 2019: EU member states agree to a last-ditch deal struck by France and Germany that introduces tougher requirements for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but does not endanger the project as a whole.
January 2019: The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, writes letters to companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2, urging them to stop working on the project and threatening them with the possibility of sanctions.
4 December 2018: German foreign minister Heiko Maas says Germany will not withdraw its political support for Nord Stream 2, despite tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
14 November 2018: The U.S. ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, threatens sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and says the U.S. has “not deployed the full set of tools yet” to thwart the completion of the pipeline.
24 October 2018: Polish president Andrzej Duda calls for a stop to Nord Stream 2 during a visit to Germany, arguing that it would upset the “energy balance.”
19 September 2018: Germany says it will choose a location for its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal by the end of the year as a gesture to the U.S., which wants to ship more gas to Europe. (By February 2021, there was still no final investment decision on a domestic German LNG terminal)
21 August 2018: Russia says it is ready to defy “illegal” U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream 2, as the U.S. administration reiterates its threat to impose sanctions on companies involved in the project.
18 August 2018: Russian President Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel meet near Berlin to discuss issues surrounding Nord Stream 2, including the possible disadvantages for Ukraine. Merkel reiterates that “Ukraine has to play a role also with Nord Stream 2 in place.”
11 July 2018: US president Donald Trump lashes out at Nord Stream 2 and says Germany is “totally controlled by” and “captive of” Russia, as the natural gas pipeline will increase Germany’s reliance on Russian energy resources.
18 May 2018: Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko says the Nord Stream 2 project would empower Moscow to “attack our common values” and the pipeline would be “a tragic historic mistake.”
28 March 2018: With the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH), the last German authority approves the construction and operation of Nord Stream 2.
31 January 2018: Germany grants Nord Stream 2 a permit for construction and operation in German waters and landfall areas near Lubmin.
25 April 2017: To find an alternative way to get the project going, Uniper, Wintershall, ENGIE, OMV and Royal Dutch Shell sign a financing agreement with Nord Stream 2 AG, a subsidiary of Gazprom responsible for the development of the Nord Stream 2 project.
12 August 2016: Gazprom’s partners ENGIE, Gazprom, OMV, Shell, Uniper and Wintershall withdraw their application for merger approval from the Polish competition authority for Nord Stream 2. Gazprom says the withdrawal will not affect the construction of the pipeline.
7 March 2016: Eight EU leaders sign a letter objecting to Nord Stream 2 citing geopolitical reasons.
Stuart Turley is President and CEO of Sandstone Group, a top energy data, and finance consultancy working with companies all throughout the energy value chain. Sandstone helps both small and large-cap energy companies to develop customized applications and manage data workflows/integration throughout the entire business. With experience in implementing enterprise networks, supercomputers, and cellular tower solutions, Sandstone has become a trusted source and advisor in this space. Stuart has led the “Total Corporate Digital Integration” platform at Sandstone and works with Sandstone clients to help integrate all aspects of modern digital business. He is also the Executive Publisher of www.energynewsbeat.com, the best source for 24/7 energy news coverage and is the Co-Host of the energy news video and Podcast Energy News Beat.
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