Ignoring U.S. President Joe Biden’s review of the Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, Berlin has doubled down on its energy dependence on Moscow.

Last week, Germany’s state-run DW News reported that the $11-billion pipeline project was nearing its completion:

Russia’s vessel Fortuna has resumed laying pipes for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Danish waters, the project consortium said on Saturday.

The pipe-laying vessel had suspended construction of the almost completed pipeline between Russia and Germany due to US sanctions. (…)

The controversial project will double the amount of Russian natural gas export to Germany through the Baltic Sea pipeline.

The Biden administration is currently conducting a review of President Donald Trump’s policy towards the 760-mile undersea gas pipeline that will soon link Russia to Germany, the U.S. media reported on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier announced Germany’s intentions to expand the Nord Stream 2 pipeline beyond the supply of natural gas. Berlin wants to team up with Moscow in “repurposing” the channel to also receive hydrogen, an alternative fuel source.

“We offer Russia a deeper cooperation” in hydrogen fuel production German Economy Minister Altmaier told a forum of Russian and German businessmen.

Germans “expect the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, that will bring Russian gas directly to Germany and is nearly complete, to provide a future hydrogen import route while Russia develops renewable power for electrolysis, or methane pyrolosis [sic], to produce hydrogen,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Russia is currently working on technology and infrastructure to convert natural gas to hydrogen aimed at German and European markets. A project Russia’s state-owned oil company Gazprom “might undertake is a construction of a blue hydrogen plant at the German end of the Nord Stream pipeline to supply its hydrogen to the European market,” Forbes reported last month.

Trump saw German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of energy dependence on Moscow as a security threat for Europe and the transatlantic alliance.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” he warned during the 2018 NATO summit. “They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” he estimated.

Given Merkel’s lack of support for NATO and her stance towards Moscow, in June 2020, Trump announced the withdrawal of some 12,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany.

There is some media speculation on potential U.S. sanctions on European companies involved in the pipeline construction. Still, going by the German action, Merkel expects Biden to take a consolatory approach, reversing his predecessor’s tough stance.

The Biden White House is proving German assumptions right by “freezing” the outgoing president’s troop withdrawal.

Encouraged by such moves, German “ministers are now working on creative solutions they can present to President Joe Biden’s team that may persuade them to drop sanctions,” the UK daily Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The leading German Business daily Handelsblatt also believes that Washington will accept the Russo-German pipeline, albeit with some caveats.

“In conflict over the Nord Stream 2, U.S. and Germany are moving towards a compromise,” the newspaper reported on Sunday.

Berlin wants to persuade Biden with a ploy similar to the one devised by John Kerry to sell the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Merkel’s government promises “snap back” sanctions on Russian gas if Moscow decides to misbehave or invade one of its neighboring countries like it did to Ukraine and Georgia.

“One idea being floated [by Berlin] is the concept of ‘snapbacks’ — a mechanism that would allow Germany to shut off Nord Stream 2 if Russia puts pressure on Ukraine, say, by arbitrarily cutting supplies through its gas transit system,” the Financial Times reported.

That’s a dumb idea even by the Biden White House standards. It’s somewhat like an addict promising to “sanction” his sole drug dealer.

Since it takes two to tango, Merkel is banking on President Biden’s gullibility. As the WSJ reported: “The Biden administration could also waive the application of sanctions under a national-interest clause, placating Germany, a critical European ally.”

If that happens, President Biden will perhaps be handing Moscow its most significant geostrategic victory since the end of the Cold War.

 

 
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