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Blinken: Nord Stream 2's Completion is a "Fait Accompli"

nord stream pipeline
Image courtesy Gazprom

Published Jun 7, 2021 6:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

After declining to take enforcement action to halt Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress Monday that "the physical completion of the pipeline was . . . a fait accompli." The acknowledgement appears to mark the end of American efforts to halt the pipeline, as Blinken pointed to alternate measures to limit the Kremlin's use of the pipeline for geostrategic purposes.

In May, Blinken waived sanctions penalties for Switzerland-based Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, though he acknowledged that they have engaged in sanctionable activity as the developers of the Nord Stream 2 project. Blinken said that the decision not to penalize Warnig and Nord Stream 2 AG - despite their key role in Nord Stream 2 - was "in the national interests of the United States." 

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the first of the project's two lines has been completed, and that gas will begin flowing within 10 days' time. Work on the second line continues and is now only about 50 nm away from completion. 

Pointing to the facts on the ground, Blinken testified Monday that the pipeline was 90 percent finished by the time that President Joe Biden took office and was essentially a done deal. By placing congressionally-mandated sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its executive leadership, he said, the administration would only have damaged relations with the German government. Germany is a key NATO ally for the United States, as well as a strong advocate for the pipeline's completion; the German energy sector stands to gain from ample supplies of low-cost Russian natural gas. 

The Biden administration's decision not to act on on bipartisan, congressionally mandated sanctions on Nord Stream 2 has drawn criticism. A group of 60 Republican congressmen released a letter Monday protesting the administration's approach to the project. "We have strong objections to your decision to waive sanctions for Nord Stream 2 AG and effectively ensure the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline," they wrote. "The completion of Nord Stream 2, which was slowed during the Trump administration, will be a gift to Putin and his efforts to increase geopolitical influence in Europe."

When complete, the new twin pipeline will double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream line under the Baltic, creating a new opportunity for Gazprom to boost sales to Western Europe - or to reroute gas volume away from the pipeline transit network through Ukraine. The extra supplies of Russian gas are widely expected to undercut U.S. LNG shipments on price, reducing Europe's gas imports from the United States and increasing its dependence on state-owned Gazprom.