nord stream
© Construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Germany - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.12.2021 Sputnik / Dmitry Lelchuk
US senators pushed President Joe Biden to talk to the new German government about putting Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on ice, in an article published Friday by The Washington Post.

Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who took part in a video call of some 20 Congress members with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accused Russia of using energy resources as a weapon against Europe after it was hit by a pandemic-driven gas supply crunch.

"The administration should work closely with the new German government to keep the pipeline from becoming operational; it is in Europe's best interests to deny [President Vladimir] Putin another arm of influence over our allies," they wrote.

Comment: Evidently it's not in Europe's best interests. And isn't the US always complaining of 'Russian meddling'?

The senators called on Biden to reimpose sanctions on the subsea gas link. Nord Stream 2 was completed in fall but its certification process by Germany stalled and a decision is not expected until mid-2022. Ukraine and Poland stand to miss out on gas transit fees if the pipeline becomes operational.

Russia has repeatedly urged against politicizing the project, expressing readiness to keep gas transit via Ukraine.

Putin says efforts to block Nord Stream 2 is foolish since project would lower gas prices

Nord Stream 2, the $10.5 billion, 1,230km gas pipeline running from Russia to north-eastern Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, is technically complete and ready for operation. However, the project has yet to receive German and European Union regulatory approval, with that process threatening to drag out until next spring.

The ongoing efforts to impede the launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline are foolish, since delivery of additional gas to Europe would reduce prices for everyone, including Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

"Regarding Nord Stream 2, yes, I agree with your assessments; this is also foolish for those who are preventing the system from operating, since the delivery of additional gas supplies to the European market would undoubtedly lower spot prices on the market," Putin said, speaking at a meeting of officials on Friday, and commenting on a report by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, about the situation concerning Nord Stream 2.

"And since many countries - including, by the way, Ukraine which is dependent on the spot price today, and they do not want to buy gas from us directly - would witness a substantial fall in fuel price, simply put, they are cutting the branch on which they sit," Putin said.

Comment: The establishment in the West are losing the game, and belligerence and self-sabotage are some of the only cards they have left to play.

Ukraine halted the purchase of gas supplies directly from Russia in 2015, and has since depended on reverse flow contracts from Slovakia and other European countries, who buy gas from Russia and sell it back to Kiev at an inflated price. This practice has led to a dramatic jump in utility bills among consumers, as well as Ukrainian businesses, further exacerbating the economic slump caused by Kiev's effort to cut economic ties with Moscow.

In his report, Zhirinovsky suggested that the European countries were making things worse for themselves and facing the prospect of "freezing" in a cold winter by keeping Nord Stream 2 from coming online.

Earlier Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the European Union of turning Nord Stream 2 into a "bargaining chip" in its confrontation with Russia, with Brussels politicians ready to pay out of their pockets to "express solidarity" with Washington and annoy Moscow.

"It's sad, but this is a new generation of fanatics of their cause, which found the meaning of their own existence in the battle with Russia," Ryabkov said.Ryabkov's comments followed warnings from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin might block the launch of the pipeline in the event of an escalation of the situation around Ukraine.

"Strictly speaking, this was probably something that was expected, although regrettable. On the other hand, I don't think [Baerbock's remarks] should be overly dramatised, particularly because nobody is planning to attack Ukraine," Ryabkov said.

Nord Stream 2 is technically complete and ready for operation, with the second of its twin lines expected to be fully pressurised by the end of the year. Russia has repeatedly charged the US and its allies with hampering the project via sanctions, as well as provocative military activities in Ukraine and near Russia's borders.

US sanctions successfully delayed Nord Stream 2's completion in 2019, forcing several European contractors, insurers and certifiers to pull out under threat of "crushing and potentially fatal" restrictions. Gazprom replaced these contractors with Russian companies, with the pipeline subsequently completed in the fall of this year. Once operational, it will be able to pump up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to Germany; the pipeline is also capable of pumping mass volumes of clean hydrogen.

Last week, Republican Senator Ted Cruz and President Biden's Democratic Party allies in the Senate agreed to bring his bill slapping new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 to a vote in January. Cruz spent months blocking Biden's diplomatic appointees after the president reached an agreement with Berlin not to sanction Nord Stream 2's Switzerland-based operator - Nord Stream 2 AG.

Germany suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2 in November, with the country's federal network agency saying Nord Stream 2 AG has yet to provide the necessary paperwork. The decision threatens to push the project's launch into the spring of 2022 at the earliest.

The tussle over Nord Stream 2 comes amid rocketing gas prices in Europe and shortages in countries' underground gas storage reserves.