Despite years of pressure and sanctions from the United States, Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom has finally completed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Nord Stream 2 will exponentially increase the supply of natural gas to Europe, primarily to energy-starved Germany.
The completion of the project is historic, as it is one of the few times in post-war history that Germany has asserted itself and openly defied the will of Washington to pursue its own interests.
Construction of the underwater pipeline began in 2018 and was immediately attacked by the US and Ukraine. In 2019, ambassador Richard Grenell and other Trump administration officials threatened both Russia and the European Union with sanctions if the project was not immediately aborted, but the German government ignored the threat. Last July, Washington caved and signed a deal with Germany that centered around verbally condemning Russia and expressing support for the Ukraine.
The new mechanism for energy transportation to Europe could hurt the already struggling Ukrainian economy. While the Ukrainian government is openly hostile to Russia, they make billions from transit fees when Russian gas is transported through their territory to Western Europe. In has in recent years attempted to use its geographic position to engage in economic attacks by levying tariffs on Russian gas transit. With Nord Stream 2, Russia will be able to circumvent the Ukraine by moving gas through pipes under the Baltic Sea.
Though the European Union insists it will be energy independent in the 2040s through the use of renewable sources, in the short term they hope Nord Stream 2 will be saving them from an energy crisis as winter approaches.
This may be false hope. Many European Union leaders, including Merkel, have assured the US that they will not allow Russia to politicize the pipeline and continues to reiterate that Russian gas will no longer be needed in 25 years anyway. But Gazprom is only contractually obligated to provide 183 billion cubic meters of liquid natural gas until 2022 — not enough to avoid a steep increase in energy bills this winter in Western Europe — and there is no sign that it is feeling particularly generous in providing more.
The reason is not political, but a question of global demand. Global liquid natural gas supplies have been diverted away from Europe to Asia and Brazil during the summer due to the fact that the latter nations were willing to pay a higher price. The European Union is being pressured by the United States to continue attacking Russia and how it conducts affairs on its border, but ultimately, they are in a diplomatic bind due to their need for Gazprom to send more gas.