The Russian Pipeline Pressure Point

By Samantha Bader, Co-President

With more and more Russian troops marching towards Ukraine each day, pressure is mounting for the EU, United Kingdom, and USA to undertake some form of action that would prevent the conflict from escalating into open war. A key pressure point has emerged in the form of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. 

The Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and allowing Russia a way to export gas to the rest of Europe without needing Ukrainian territory to facilitate the transport. The pipeline, first approved by the Germans in 2015, runs for 1,200 km and was completed in September of 2021. It is now awaiting final certification before it becomes operational.

There have been critics of the pipeline since it was announced. England, the United States, and many EU members fought fiercely against the deal being struck, claiming that it would give Russia even more influence across Europe. Russia, one of the main suppliers of gas to Europe, has already alleged to have artificially decreased gas supply in order to raise energy prices across Europe. The International Energy Agency has said that lack of Russian supply is one of the main reasons for shockingly high natural gas prices across Europe at present.

Oil and gas exports account for more than 40% of Russian government revenues, making the pipeline of crucial importance to Putin. Gazprom, the state-owned energy company behind the Nord Stream 2 anticipates that the revenues from the pipeline could be more than $15 billion per year, and they have already invested $11 billion into the development of the pipeline. 

With the tension between Russia and Ukraine growing, and an invasion seeming increasingly likely, there are those who believe that sanctioning the pipeline harshly would deter Russia from taking further military action and force continued Russian reliance on Ukrainian land for the transportation of its gas exports. On the other hand, there are those who say that by killing the pipeline deal, Russia will be forced to invade Ukraine to gain control of Ukrainian oil fields. 

US Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez said, “Putin wants to see Nord Stream 2. If somehow it’s killed before any potential invasion, he has one less reason not to invade Ukraine.” 

So far, both the Germans and Americans have abstained from including the Nord Stream pipeline in any proposed sanctions packages. The Germans have gone a step further, refusing to join their NATO counterparts in pledging weapons to the Ukrainian army. 

In the meantime, the Americans have been preemptively reaching out to many Middle Eastern countries to try and gain commitments from them to increase their gas supplies should Russian gas no longer be an option. If Russian supply of gas dies out completely, gas and energy prices across the globe will skyrocket, and there may even be gas shortages in some parts of the world. 

The Nord Stream 2 will remain a pressure point until it becomes clear how far Putin is willing to go with regards to military action in Ukraine. So far, the Germans and Americans are trying to keep it out of the fray, but that is unlikely to be a viable long-term solution. 

Photo by Michael Parulava on Unsplash

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