The US is considering the possibility of imposing additional sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project if Russia tries to complete its construction independently. The Senate and the House of Representatives has already prepared a new sanction bill which could target the European investors in the pipeline and the companies that buy gas, if it ever starts to arrive in Germany.
Citing sources in Washington, Handelsblatt reports that the sanctions could arrive very soon – in February or March. US lawmakers are firmly resolved to put an end to the project and turn it into a $10 billion heap of metal on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
The US’s package of sanctions from December put construction on hold on December 24, when 160 km of pipeline remained to be laid. The Swiss company Allseas’ pipe-laying vessel, which could have completed the work in a matter of weeks, left the Baltic Sea on December 24, several days after US Senator Ted Cruz wrote to executive director Edward Heerema and threatened to wipe the company off the economic face of the earth.
Russia is capable of finishing the construction on its own, it’s only a question of time, said Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 11 after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Kremlin. According to Putin, it will take about a year: “By the end of this year, or in the first quarter of next year, the work will be completed, and the pipeline will become operational.”
Germany is not planning to provide Russia with any technological assistance, a high-ranking German diplomat told Handelsblatt. German companies are afraid of sanctions and will not jeopardize their business.
Berlin has its hopes set on diplomacy. “We are holding a campaign to have the US sanctions revoked, to prevent the realization of Nord Stream 2 from being delayed any longer,” the diplomat explained.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in December that the ship “Akademik Cherskiy” could be used to complete the construction. The vessel in question was made in China, and was acquired by Gazprom in 2016 after it came under US technological sanctions.
However, in its current condition the vessel is unable to do the work. On December 30, Gazprom announced a $14 million tender for retrofitting the ship on the state procurements website.
Russia has no domestically produced pipe-layer which could complete the construction, said Alexey Rakhmanov, head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, on December 24. According to him, the engineering could take 1.5-2 years, and construction 3-4.