The US Senate formally signed off on the 2021 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) on Friday, paving the way for new sanctions against Nord Stream 2, a $10.5 billion energy infrastructure megaproject which will double the existing 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year capacity of the Nord Stream network.
Rolf Muetzenich, leader of the Merkel-allied Social Democrats in the Bundestag, has indicated that Berlin will need to get ready for a “hard confrontation” to protect its interests by setting up urgent new legal protections for Nord Stream 2.
A Nord Stream 2 spokesman confirmed Friday that construction had restarted, with the Fortuna, a Russian-flagged pipelaying crane vessel, engaging in the laying down of two parallel sections of underwater pipeline, with the ship set to lay some 2.6 km of pipeline in German waters at a depth of 30 meters or less.
The resumption of work on the project comes despite the passing of the NDAA by the Senate, which means possible fresh sanctions against Nord Stream 2, piling onto the NDAA restrictions introduced by Washington in late 2019, which led Swiss pipelaying contractor Allseas to pull out of the project with just 160 km of the 1,230 km pipeline left to build.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed confidence that Moscow had “both the programme to implement the project, as well as specific steps that should be taken” to prevent Washington from stopping Nord Stream 2’s construction a second time.
The House passed the 2021 NDAA 335 votes to 78, with the Senate approving it 84 votes to 13, thereby assuring veto-proof majorities against President Donald Trump, who threatened to block the defence spending bill over technology company liabilities and a provision on the renaming of bases named after Confederate generals.
In a separate story Saturday, Bloomberg reported, citing two sources said to be familiar with the matter, that the Nord Stream 2 sanctions in the bill should go into effect almost immediately after the NDAA is approved by Trump. The president is expected to try and veto the bill, or to sign it, within a ten day period following its approval by the Senate on Friday.
Nord Stream 2 is a $10.5 billion energy infrastructure between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Western European energy companies Uniper, Wintershall, OMV, Engie, and Royal Dutch Shell. Once completed, the project will double the existing Nord Stream network’s total capacity to 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year, turning Germany into a major energy hub for deliveries further west and south, and depriving Eastern European transit states of the ability to hold gas deliveries hostage in the event of a dispute with Moscow.