US sanctions against a Nord Stream 2 contractor would be a surgical incision affecting Russia’s interests, but less in European players involved in the project. It is not certain, however, whether Donald Trump really wants them – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
Reset in Ukraine
The German Handelsblatt reported that the Americans are considering implementing sanctions against Allseas, a Swiss company dealing with the disputed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It is to connect Germany with Russia and – according to the words of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland Jacek Czaputowicz – may “kill Ukraine”, that is to undermine its economic and political stability. The leader of the polls ahead of the presidential election Yulia Tymoshenko has already announced that she will be able to cut gas prices on the Dnieper by half. One can imagine a scenario in which it abandons socially costly reforms, but puts up by Western financial institutions, as a condition for further assistance, and asks for money for Moscow as part of a wider reset in relations despite the annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in the east of the country.
The Americans could make a surgical incision and sanction Allseas. The Swiss are responsible for most of the tasks related to the construction of the sea section of Nord Stream 2. If they were removed from the construction site, finding a new contractor could be difficult, expensive and time-consuming. At present, the Pioneering Spirit is working on the construction of Nord Stream 2, which according to Handelsblatt is “unique”. It is 380 m long and 120 meters wide. Its construction cost, according to estimates, is three billion dollars. If the works are stopped, the ship will incur costly losses. At the same time, surgical cutting would not directly hit the Nord Stream 2 financial partners: Engie from France, BASF / Wintershall and E.on / Uniper from Germany, OMV from Austria and the British-Dutch Shell. The probable diplomatic conflict with Switzerland would remain to be solved. Perhaps the Americans are ready to bear such a cost. They did not hesitate to bear them in the case of relations with Germany or China, so it could be similar in the case of a fondue country.
It is not certain, however, whether President Donald Trump actually intends to impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project. The US administration does not confirm Handelsblatt’s reports. Its official position is unchanged since at least June 2018, when BiznesAlert.pl reported that they are waiting for the movement of Europe. This one has no intention of introducing sanctions. It is possible, however, that the combined efforts of the diplomacy of the opponents of Nord Stream 2, such as Poland and the USA, are the lack of Denmark’s consent to the location of the gas pipeline in its territorial waters. It may take up to a year to change the route. The weather is also an ally of opponents of the disputed gas pipeline. Mariusz Marszałkowski writes in BiznesAlert.pl that difficult weather conditions in the Baltic can further delay the construction. Gazprom still communicates that the schedule assuming the end of work in December 2019 is not in danger.
What will Trump do?
Handelsblatt’s reports confirm that the “crazy surgeon” stands over the Nord Stream 2 operating table and can pull out the scalpel at any time. It is not known where and when it will go. In such conditions, the investment risk of financial partners from the European Union increases. In the case of a surgical incision against Allseas, the profitability of the project will be significantly jeopardized. Everyone is waiting for the Trump movement, which for the moment is focused on attempts to end the budget crisis in the country and the trade war with the US. Talks on customs for goods from China have been extended and that’s where the attention of the American administration is probably focused.