On January 19, 2021, the United States Treasury Department utilized the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to sanction the Russian vessel laying the final components of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Running between Russia and Germany, the project has created strife between the United States, Ukraine, and Poland on one side, and Russia and Germany on the other. With only a few kilometers of the pipeline still needing to be constructed, Germany and Russia are anxious to see their investment bear fruit.
Overview of Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
The 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 way to increase wealth and buyer choice, concerns are rising that Moscow may use the pipeline to advance its gray zone strategy.
These worries have arisen in many North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 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."
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 July of 2021.
Russian & German Response
The governments of Russia and Germany have been relatively silent in regards to the sanctioning of the pipe-laying vessel Fortuna. This is likely due to the change of administrations in Washington DC. Despite the clear change in foreign policy that will emerge from the January 20th inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, it is unlikely that this will be one area in which it will. Both former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden have publicly acknowledged their disdain for the project, and as such, Moscow and Berlin would be unwise to bank on a drastic shift.
Update - (1555 EST | 01/20/21)
PJSC Gazprom, Russia's state-owned energy giant, has acknowledged that the sanctioning of the Fortuna may result in the suspension or cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. The Intelligence Ledger will update this page as more information becomes available.