Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 8 February 2021
Nord Stream 2 Returns Amid Favorable Political Conditions
Russia’s vessel Fortuna has resumed laying pipes for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Danish waters, as informed back on February 6. Although works were suspended amid bad weather conditions, Russia and Germany won a symbolic victory, trying to complete the gas link as favorable conditions materialized. The United States does not seem to know what to do next while the European Union showed its weakness after Josep Borrell’s visit to Moscow. France denied any reports that it had anything against the project.
In late 2020, the Danish Maritime Agency said in a statement that the Russian laybarge Fortuna would resume building two parallel lines of the gas pipeline in the Danish exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea in mid-January 2021. As it turned out shortly after, in one of its last decisions, the outgoing Donald Trump administration imposed sanctions on both Fortuna and its owner KVT-RUS. Nevertheless, they started work on February 6. Fortuna is assisted by two other Russian support vessels, Baltiysky Issledovatel and Murman. Russia is playing hard, ignoring plausible sanctions – as encouraged by Washington’s indecisive stance and most of all the attitude adopted by Western Europe, with Germany at the helm. Interestingly, Joe Biden already named Berlin as his country’s strategic European ally. Asked directly whether Germany should change course and renounce the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Armin Laschet, a new CDU leader, made it clear: “For 50 years, even in the aggressive times of the Cold War, Germany has bought gas from the Soviet Union, now from Russia. The German government is following the right course.” Laschet also supported European Union sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, arguing that the Nord Stream 2 project is another story. He also added that the gas link is a “private-sector” project. At the same time, Angela Merkel said that different opinions with the Biden administration are not that big as it might seem and it is important to start talks. She reiterated what Laschet said that even in the times of the Cold War, Germany bought gas from Russia. Most importantly, Merkel’s stance was echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron who said gas could play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions across the EU. “Nord Stream 2 is a project of a group of private firms,” European Commission Spokesman Peter Stano was quoted as saying. “The European Union will be unable to suspend the building of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline without Germany’s approval,” he told a Russian press agency while EU top diplomat Josep Borrell was humiliated at a meeting in the Russian foreign ministry.
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