Gazprom to restart work on controversial Russian-German gas pipeline
Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy giant said it will restart work on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
The company told the Deutsche Presse Agentur on Saturday (28 November) that it will begin laying pipes again, but did not say when the Nord Stream 2 will be completed.
Work has been at a standstill since December last year after president Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for sanctions to be imposed on companies involved in laying the pipes. Allseas, a Swiss-Dutch pipe-laying company, stopped work in December.
There is only about 120km (74.5 miles) of the 1,230km pipeline left to be laid under the Baltic sea to reach the German coast.
Costing about €10bn (£9bn, $12bn) the pipeline project is majority owned by Gazprom, and co-financed by companies including Wintershall, Uniper (UN01.DE), and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), BASF (BAS.DE) and OMV (OMV.VI).
The project has caused major strife between the US and Germany, with president Trump repeatedly accusing Berlin of making Germany and Europe dangerously dependent on Russia for energy supply.
Trump has also been pushing to sell more US liquified natural gas into the EU market.
In August, three US Republican senators sent a threatening letter to Fährhafen Sassnitz, the company that operates the port of Mukran in the Baltic Sea, accusing it of “knowingly providing significant goods, services, and support" for Russian and German pipeline-construction vessels near the German coast.
They demanded that it stop activities supporting the pipeline, or face "crushing legal and economic sanctions.” These threats did not go down well in Berlin: foreign minister Heiko Maas said he had expressed his “displeasure” on a phone call to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo said in July that Washington would slap sanctions on companies and investors involved in the pipeline.
"It’s a clear warning to companies – aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated,” Pompeo said. “Get out now or risk the consequences.”
Within Germany, calls grew this summer for chancellor Angela Merkel to put a halt to the pipeline project after Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of president Vladimir Putin, was poisoned by the banned nerve agent Novichok.
However, Merkel ruled out stopping work on the pipeline, saying: "Our opinion is that Nord Stream 2 should be completed. I don't think it is appropriate to link this business-operated project with the Navalny question."
While Germany has congratulated Joe Biden on his US election win, there is no indication so far to assume that Biden will take the pressure off Germany to pull out of the Nord Stream 2.