Germany suspends approval of Nordstream 2 pipeline

Joe Biden's policy toward Russia now can be said to be weaker than that of Germany — a shocking development, considering the history of Germany shirking its duties to NATO.  The New York Times reports:

The approval process to certify Nord Stream 2, an undersea gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany that has sparked concerns about Russian influence in Europe, ground to a halt on Tuesday when a German regulator said the owners of the pipeline had failed to file the necessary paperwork.

The action means that the recently completed pipeline will not begin supplying gas to Germany anytime soon, and it comes against the backdrop of a politically charged jump in energy prices in Europe and rising tensions between Moscow and Europe over a refugee crisis in Belarus and Russian troops gathering near Ukraine.

The news caused a jump in European natural gas markets, with the price of U.K. natural gas futures soaring more than 17 percent on Tuesday, amid concerns that Europe will run short of gas this winter.

It also comes as Germany finds itself in political limbo, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a firm supporter of the pipeline project, reduced to a caretaker role while leaders from the Social Democratic, Green and Free Democratic parties debate the makeup of a new government, one that has the potential to be less favorable to its predecessor's pet energy project.

The paperwork involved is not simple, as The Guardian reports:

The German energy regulator said it would not continue its approval process until the Nord Stream 2 company, which is registered in Switzerland, transfers its main assets and staffing budget to its German subsidiary.

"A certification for the operation of Nord Stream 2 will only be considered once the operator is organised in a legal shape compliant with German law," the regulator said.

This means that the approval process will have to start over once the subsidiaries are reconfigured.  More delays.

Underlying this, Russia is currently massing troops on its border with Ukraine, from which it already has stolen territory, and whose territorial integrity it has no regard for.  Nordstream 2 would allow Russian natural gas to reach Western Europe without passing through Ukraine, thereby depriving Ukraine of the ability to retaliate against Russia by cutting off gas supplies and depriving Russia of a massive amount of hard currency revenue, which the regime desperately needs.

The German Federation's willingness under outgoing Chancellor Merkel to rely more on Russia as an energy source via the Nordstream 2 pipeline had been challenged by President Trump, who placed sanctions on it.  But last May, the Biden administration announced that it was waiving the sanctions, allowing the project to be completed.

The move to delay Nordstream 2 will impose major costs on not only Germany but much of Western Europe:

Europe faces a looming winter gas crisis, which has fuelled fears of a widespread industrial slowdown due to factory shutdowns and potential power outages. It is also expected to drive a cost of living crisis for homes and small businesses.

Gas prices have reached record highs in recent months, ignited by a global surge in demand after the Covid-19 economic slowdown last year, and fuelled by Russia's reluctance to export extra supplies to Europe to help meet demand despite rocketing market prices.

Some countries have accused Russia, which is Europe's largest gas supplier, of withholding extra gas supplies to Europe in order to pressure Germany to approve the gas project. The Kremlin has denied this.

The boss of commodities trading giant Trafigura, Jeremy Weir, warned that Europe could face "rolling blackouts" this winter due to tight gas supplies and low gas storage levels.

"We haven't got enough gas at the moment quite frankly; we're not storing for the winter period. So hence there's a real concern that there's a potential if we have a cold winter that we could have rolling blackouts in Europe," Weir told an industry conference.

The return of the Cold War will actually make Western Europeans cold.

Meanwhile, Biden looks weak and has forfeited U.S. leadership.

Hat tip: Mike Nadler.

Photo credit: Pjotr MahhoninCC BY-SA 4.0 license.

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