Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Monday the Kremlin is just days away from turning the tap on the controversial gas pipeline. Nord Stream 2 will pump natural gas directly from the Russian mainland and into Germany, entirely bypassing Poland and Ukraine in the Baltic Sea. US officials have strongly opposed the £7.95billion ($11billion) project, but “lame-duck” Angela Merkel has struck a deal with US President Joe Biden earlier this summer that cemented the European Union’s (EU’s) reliance on Russian gas.
The two nations agreed to respond to any attempts by the Kremlin to exert pressure on Europe by controlling the flow of gas through the pipeline.
But experts have warned the UK could still face gas rationing, with Europe’s stability firmly in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The UK Government has revealed plans to phase out gas boilers to drive down greenhouse emissions, but gas still plays a key role in heating homes and in industry all across the nation.
And with winter just around the corner, there is a growing concern the UK could struggle to meet its demand for gas, with some experts claiming the UK is “more vulnerable to a gas supply crisis” than other western European nations.
Ukraine expert Michael McKay criticised the US administration for playing a part in the project, fearing it has also bolstered Russia’s strong-arming of Ukraine.
He tweeted on Sunday: “President Biden made a mistake joining lame-duck Chancellor Merkel in a pact to complete Russia’s Nord Stream 2 war project – without consulting Ukraine.
“The NATO alliance was fractured east-west by this shocking US reveal.
“Putin and #RussiaInvadedUkraine got unexpected help.”
Earlier this summer, Mr McKay claimed President Putin has weaponised Nord Stream 2 in a bid to secure his interests in Europe.
The move has also led to a drastic spike in gas prices.
However, the Kremlin has emphatically denied the allegations and has instead sold Nord Stream 2 as means of securing the EU’s energy needs.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian Government, said last month: “We can only reiterate that the Nord Stream 2 is a purely commercial project aimed at significantly strengthening European energy security.”
On August 25, a German court ruled the state-owned Gazprom and Nord Stream 2 operator will have to hand over some control over the pipeline in EU territories.
Under the EU’s laws, companies that produce and distribute gas within the EU cannot restrict third parties from access to infrastructure.
The rules will effectively force Russia to auction its capacity to transport the gas.
Once fully operational, Nord Stream 2 will have the capacity to move some 55 billion cubic meters, doubling the amount of gas flowing into Germany from Russia.
And despite Germany moving towards renewable energy sources to tackle the climate crisis, maintaining access to Russian gas will help the country phase out coal and invest heavily in wind farms and solar energy.
Stephen G. Gross, director of the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University, wrote in an article penned for Foreign Policy: “Covering the electricity needs of a wealthy, industrial nation through wind and solar plus storage will take time, investment, and state action.
“As a result, natural gas has become a crucial but hidden pillar of the Energiewende – a way to enable Germany’s coal and nuclear phaseout.”