- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2021

A new $11 billion Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline whose geopolitical impact will be felt across Europe is just days away from completion, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is speeding toward completion after the Biden administration this year abandoned an effort to pressure Germany to drop the project.

Critics warn that the pipeline, which is projected to deliver some 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas directly to Germany, will greatly enhance the Kremlin’s influence over Western energy markets while undercutting the current transshipment routes through U.S. allies Ukraine and Poland.

Sanctions imposed by the Trump administration forced a yearlong halt in construction under the Baltic Sea in December 2019.

But work resumed in late 2020, and President Biden decided to waive sanctions on the pipeline’s Western contractors, arguing the fight was not worth the cost of angering the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has strongly backed Nord Stream 2.

Despite what he called a “frontal assault” to block the new pipeline, Mr. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that “everyone understands — and the Americans have already realized — that it will be completed in a few days, it will start working,” according to the TASS news service.

Ukraine, already locked in a territorial clash with Russia over Crimea and its rebellious eastern regions, has been particularly critical of Nord Stream 2, which will bypass lucrative shipment routes through the country for Russian oil and gas being sold in Western markets.

Kyiv has said that recent safeguards offered by Germany and the U.S. are not enough to ease its fears.

“We view this project exclusively through the prism of security and consider it a dangerous geopolitical weapon of the Kremlin,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on a visit to Germany late last month.

Standing beside Ms. Merkel, he argued that the main risks once the pipeline is operational will be “borne by Ukraine,” but that Nord Stream 2 will also pose dangers in the long run “for all of Europe.”

The pipeline “will only play into the hands of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Zelenskyy warned.

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