As a wave of international sanctions fall on Russia following its ramped up invasion of Ukraine and decision to recognise the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent republics, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is playing an increased role in the geopolitical crisis.
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has intensified in recent days as Russia amassed almost 200,000 troops on the Ukranian border and sent Russian forces into the Donbas region as ‘peacekeepers’.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the initial wave of the UK’s sanctions on Russia’s “renewed invasion” of Ukraine would target five Russian banks and three billionaire allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As the European Union deploys its rapid cyber threat response team to cope with increased cyber threats, Germany has also halted the certification of a major European gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, required for it to operate.
But what is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?
And why is the European gas pipeline playing a role in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Nord Stream 2?
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a billion dollar gas pipeline and successor to the existing Nord Stream pipeline funnelling natural gas supply from Russia to Germany and the rest of Europe.
1,200 kilometres in length, Nord Stream 2 would connect Russia and Germany by running under the Baltic Sea to double the amount of gas delivered to Europe by the first Nord Stream pipeline.
The second pipeline, running parallel with the first Nord Stream, cost $10 billion to build and was completed in September last year.
An estimated 40% of Europe’s natural gas is currently supplied by Russia, with Nord Stream 2 set to provide up to 110 cubic metres of gas a year once operational.
Both Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 are owned by subsidiary companies of Gazprom, the Russian state energy supplier which owns the Saint Petersburg Gazprom Arena set to host the UEFA Champions League Final.
Where is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline runs from Ust-Luga in Russia’s north western Leningrad region to Greifswald in northern Germany under the Baltic Sea, which borders Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Russia.
But Nord Stream 2 has long been a source of geopolitical tensions between Russia and Western countries such as the US and UK, who have previously displayed opposition to another Russian pipeline to Europe in the past – fearing the consequences of Europe relying too much on Russia for gas supply.
Building the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, rather than through existing pipeline infrastructure in Ukraine and Poland, allows Russia to avoid the additional cost of running Nord Stream 2 gas through in-land pipes, directly connecting to North Germany to strengthen Germany’s access to natural gas.
What is Nord Stream 2’s role in Russian war on Ukraine?
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has formed a part of sanctions on Russia over the past few years, with the US previously levying financial sanctions on Russian companies involved in the pipeline project in November 2021.
After Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of Russian-occupied regions of Luhansk and Donetsk resulted in approval, German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there had been a “serious breach of international law” which demanded a reassessment of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
Federal Chancellor Scholz ordered the German Ministry for Economic Affairs to withdraw a report on the security of Russian natural gas supply to Germany through Nord Stream 2 and halt the certification of the pipeline.
“Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 can’t go into operation,” Federal Chancellor Scholz said in a statement, adding that the necessary assessment of the “dramatically altered situation” would now be “taking into account the changes that have occurred in the past few days.”
President Joe Biden reiterated in an announcement of US sanctions on Russia on Tuesday (February 22) that in alliance with Germany it will ensure Nord Stream 2 “will not move forward”.
Many commentators and governments across the globe have praised Germany’s decision, with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss welcoming it as a “strong response” from the German Federal Chancellor.
Does the UK get its gas from Russia?
The UK sources the bulk of its gas domestically – with less than 5% derived from Russia – meaning that sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline will not directly affect our own energy bills.
Norway and North Sea oil fields supply the majority of the UK’s natural gas, with the remaining amount delivered as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipped worldwide from countries such as Qatar and the US.