On May 18, 2021, the United States Department of State announced its decision to waive sanctions on the company coordinating construction on Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline currently under construction in the Baltic Sea. The move marks a major reversal in Washington's policy, as multiple successive administrations have voiced concerns that the pipeline can be utilized as a gray zone tool by Moscow in a future case of heightened tensions.
Overview of Nord Stream 2
As previously mentioned, Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline currently under construction in the Baltic Sea. If completed, the project would connect the Russian Federation to Germany, and thus offer Russian gas companies, such as Gazprom, direct access to the European market. While free market champions have touted the project as a means of increasing wealth and buyer choice, concerns are rising that Moscow may use the pipeline to advance its gray zone strategy.
These worries have gained traction in the capitals. of many North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members and partner countries, including the United States, Poland, and Ukraine. Speaking at a press conference in March of 2020, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz warned about the potential military and intelligence application of the pipeline, "this project can be used as a means of justifying increased naval presence and collecting intelligence of a wide variety in the Baltic Sea."
State Department Action
The State Department decision to waive sanctions on the company overseeing the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, has been touted as a way of repairing the somewhat tattered relationship between Berlin and Washington. Specifically, President Biden's administration has pointed to the Department of Defense's decision on July 29, 2020 to withdraw 11,900 servicemen from Germany as a key point of contention between the two nations.
It remains to be seen if sanctions will remain on the pipe-laying vessels required to complete the project. If the United States is unable to halt or delay construction further, The Intelligence Ledger assesses that the Nord Stream 2 can become operational as early as late-July.