- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed confidence that a massive natural gas pipeline to Germany will be completed despite the determined opposition of the Trump administration, telling a national audience in his annual holiday press conference that the Nord Stream 2 project is nearly completed.

Russia and Germany have proceeded with the construction of the controversial pipeline despite fears in the U.S. and in many European capitals that the deal will give the Kremlin too much leverage over the continent’s fuel supplies. Russia in the past has used its ability to turn the oil spigots on and off as a way to pressure Ukraine and other countries on its border.

Mr. Putin said completing the pipeline is in Europe’s best economic interest, noting that Russian natural gas is cheaper than liquefied natural gas being shipped to Europe from the U.S.

“Nord Stream 2 is beyond all doubt … a beneficial [project] for the economy of Europe in general and for Germany in particular,” Mr. Putin said during his marathon press conference.

Despite numerous construction and permitting problems over the course of the project, he said that just about 100 miles of pipeline need to be laid in the Baltic Sea for Nord Stream 2 to be completed. He also expressed hope the incoming Biden administration would take a more conciliatory approach to the project and “not insist that its partners and allies neglect their national interests.”

But President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s team may not have a choice: The National Defense Authorization Act just passed by Congress includes provisions to sanction shipping companies that assist in the construction of Nord Stream 2 or provide insurance or other regulatory support for the project going forward.

President Trump has threatened to vote the NDAA for other reasons, but the defense policy bill passed both houses of Congress last week with veto-proof majorities.

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