Russia Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Can't Be Stopped, Moscow Says

Russian officials remain bullish on Moscow's controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, even as tensions over Ukraine prompt renewed calls from opponents to scrap the natural gas project that is expected to begin operations in the second half of 2022.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, Russia's ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechaev, and Russia's permanent representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said this week that the project is legitimate and will go ahead, despite pressure for a last-minute reversal.

Nord Stream 2—controlled by Russia's state-owned Gazprom corporation—is the second natural gas pipeline running directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea.

Nord Stream 1—majority owned by Gazprom—became operational in 2011, and has an annual capacity of 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas. Nord Stream 2 will double this to around 3.9 trillion cubic feet.

The second pipeline is currently under review by German regulators. European regulators will then also have to give their approval. As Europe grapples with an energy crisis, Moscow is calling for the process to be accelerated.

German regulators, however, said earlier this month that their decision would likely not be made in the first half of 2022.

Tensions on the Ukraine border—where tens of thousands of Russian troops remain deployed amid concerns of another invasion—and a new, more Nord Stream-skeptic government in Germany have given Nord Stream 2 opponents new hope that the project could be scrapped.

Russian diplomats remain publicly confident that the $11 billion project will be approved. Nechaev told the German DPA news agency in an interview published Tuesday: "No one wants to artificially delay the commissioning of the pipeline."

Nechaev called on the new German government—a coalition formed of the Social Democratic Party, Greens, and Free Democratic Party—to act "pragmatically and in the interests of consumers."

"I hear from the new federal government that this is a private sector project that should not be linked to politics," Nechaev said, according to Russia's state-backed Tass news agency.

"We do not take anyone's word for it. But we take it into account. We very much hope that we will complete the project. Everyone will benefit from it."

On Wednesday, Novak told RBC media that efforts to stop the pipeline would not succeed. "We believe that this project cannot be disrupted," the deputy prime minister said. "It was created in line with all requirements of the law."

Chizhov, meanwhile, told Tass it would be Europeans, not Russians, that would pay the price if the pipeline is blocked. "Only European consumers will suffer from delays in the certification of the Nord Stream 2," he said.

"Gas through this pipeline, supplied on the basis of long-term contracts, will be the cheapest. After all, in all other cases it is the consumer who pays for additional transport and other costs."

Chizhov blamed repeated delays on European "populist spirit."

Nord Stream 2 opponents say the pipeline is a political project that will allow Moscow to hold Europe hostage.

Nord Stream 2 will also allow Russia to stop using an existing natural gas pipeline that runs through Ukraine to Europe, which could deny Kyiv transit fees of around $3 billion each year.

Successive U.S. administrations have opposed the project but been unable to convince past German governments to abandon the pipeline.

In May, President Joe Biden waived U.S. sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG—the Gazprom-owned entity overseeing the pipeline—and its chief executive Matthias Warnig, prompting anger in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

The U.S. and Germany signed an agreement earlier this year committing to action if Russia uses the pipeline as a political weapon. Skeptics took little comfort from the accord while Russia disputed its validity.

The current crisis in Ukraine has given fresh momentum to Nord Stream 2 opponents. Earlier this month, representatives for Lithuania and Latvia both told Newsweek they hoped the new German government would take a fresh, more critical look at the project.

Kyiv, too, is still pushing for a U-turn. A source close to the government told Newsweek this month that the U.S. decision to waive sanctions "sends the wrong message."

Former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said stopping the pipeline could be "a powerful instrument to get Putin to understand that we need a political solution to the problems in Ukraine."

Nord Stream 2 facility in Germany 2020
This file photo shows the Nord Stream 2 gas line landfall facility in Lubmin, Germany, on September 7, 2020. Russia is calling for pipeline's approval process to be accelerated, while opponents are seeking to sink the project entirely. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images