Construction of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline began with high expectations: 50+ years of gas delivery to European consumers, energy supplied to over 25 million households, and contribution to European energy security. This 1200 km extension of the existing Nord Stream Pipeline is projected to double the amount of natural gas transported from Russia directly to Germany and other European countries. However, these expectations have been met with opposition from the EU, US, and several other European countries, stemming from concerns of an increase in Russia’s political and economic leverage, among other issues. Even today, with the project being 90% completed (1040 km), the pipeline faces continued backlash. One of the loudest voices comes from the United States, which has continued to express concern surrounding the anti-democratic threat posed by countries like Russia and China. As apprehension surrounding the project continues to grow within the Biden Administration and the country itself, the new president will be forced to make critical choices regarding the pipeline’s potential threats, and to address the issues that it presents.
The Nord Stream 2 Pipeline faced its share of US resistance even before the inauguration of president Joe Biden, with opposition visible in US policy since the Obama administration, and former president Donald Trump placing sanctions on the project back in 2019. Since these sanctions were imposed, the project had essentially been halted, leaving it up to the current president to decide how or if construction will proceed. However, reports suggest that companies have recently resumed construction of the pipeline, violating the sanctions and forcing Biden to take action. Voices from both Republican and Democratic representatives have called for stronger sanctions that shift toward halting the project for good, with even Biden himself citing it as a “bad deal for Europe”.
Biden’s public reasoning for opposing the pipeline’s construction is based on its negative implications for Ukraine: an ally and blossoming democratic state. For years, Russia’s gas pipelines have run through Ukraine, allowing the country to profit off of the 2 to 3 billion dollars in yearly transit fees, which account for a staggering 3% of the country’s GDP. A ten-year contract was proposed in an attempt to keep Ukraine afloat, which involved a minimum annual transport of 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas through Ukraine pipelines, but Russia has yet to agree. However, concerns for Ukraine stretch beyond financial instability, as this decrease in income could leave the country vulnerable to Russian influence. Ukraine is not the only country that faces this threat, as Russia supplies around 40% of Europe’s natural gas. Biden sees this supply as not only a relationship between Russia and European countries, but as a means by which Russian president Vladmir Putin can gain leverage and control, spreading anti-democratic sentiment. However, voices from Germany, primarily prime minister Angela Merkel, continue to insist that the pipeline is merely a business venture, not a political statement.
As the issue of the completion of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline continues to be discussed, the decisions and statements made by United States president Joe Biden could have significant implications; whether that be for Ukraine, Germany-US relations, or Russia’s potential control over Europe. Biden’s decision concerning sanctions on the pipeline will also give us a better idea of what we can expect from Biden in international relations going forward, and the relationships he intends to strengthen and maintain over the next four years.