Jan 7, 2021
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Gazprom intends to violate US sanctions

Gazprom intends to violate US sanctions

Photo: DPA / Picture-Alliance / TASS

The Russian pipe-laying vessel Akademik Chersky has returned to the Nord Stream 2 construction zone in the exclusive economic zone of Denmark, according to media reports citing data from the MarineTraffic portal. There are supply vessels nearby, as well as in the port of Mukran, where pipes for the gas pipeline are stored.

Earlier, the pipe-laying barge Fortuna completed the construction of the Nord Stream 2 section in the territorial waters of the Federal Republic of Germany and, according to the Danish Maritime Agency, from January 15, it can carry out work on the completion of the gas pipeline in the Danish zone. At the same time, no permission was reported to participate in the construction of Akademik Chersky.

In the meantime, the United States continues the sanctions war against Nord Stream 2. And if earlier there were obstacles to the construction of the highway, the recent actions of the American authorities led to the refusal of the Norwegian company Det Norske Veritas GL to certify Nord Stream 2 after the completion of construction work.

Germany has once again stated that it considers the project to be economic and does not accept US extraterritorial sanctions. This was stated at a briefing by the deputy official representative of the Cabinet of Ministers of Germany Ulrike Demmer… She also said that the country’s government took note of the plans of the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the final point of the gas pipeline will be located, to create a fund in support of Nord Stream 2. It is assumed that in this way it will be possible to withdraw from the sanctions the German companies participating in the project.

In this perspective Igor Yushkov, Leading Expert of the National Energy Security Fund, Lecturer at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation does not believe:

– The Europeans had experience in creating mechanisms for bypassing American sanctions: at one time, a special structure was created so that buyers of Iranian oil would not fall under the sanctions. But not a single commercial company agreed to this, as they were confident that the Americans would still see who was buying Iranian oil, and this mechanism would not protect them from the pressure of sanctions and they would end up on the “black lists”. Therefore, not a single company, even a medium-sized one, used this tool. I think that the creation of such a fund as an attempt to bypass American sanctions will not work, German companies will not even try.

Another question is if this mechanism is agreed with the Americans. According to the latest version of negotiations with the Americans, it was said that if European government structures and regulators fall under sanctions, there will be consultations with American sanctions regulators: whether to impose sanctions against German structures or not. Perhaps the Germans propose to create a fund, which will be a certain register – to keep a list of companies that are European, but commit unsanctioned actions, and the Europeans are still asking not to include them in the “black lists”. The fund will become a structure that will coordinate with the Americans on whom to impose sanctions and against whom not to impose sanctions. That is, it will be some kind of official lobbying body. This is the most realistic scenario.

The second option, which is possible (and there was information about it), is the creation of a climate fund for Nord Stream 2. Everyone thought it was to circumvent the sanctions. But I think that this is not a story about sanctions, but about bypassing the restrictions of the European Union. Nord Stream 2 now falls under the gas directives of the Third Energy Package, which does not allow loading this pipeline by more than 50% of its capacity. But if it is given the status of a climate-significant project for the EU, then under this pretext, it can be demanded that it be excluded from the Third Energy Package. I think this is the most realistic scenario.

“SP”: – But how can the sanctions be circumvented?

– Nothing can be invented to circumvent the sanctions. Gazprom is not going to bypass the sanctions, it wants to violate them, because it is more important for it to complete the construction of Nord Stream 2.

And now the Fund will substantiate the claims of Nord Stream 2 to be excluded from the Third Energy Package.

SP: – That is, the appearance of the Akademik Chersky pipelayer in Danish waters indicates that construction will be completed, no matter what?

– I think yes. The only question is which scenario Gazprom will choose: it will use both Fortuna and Akademik Chersky in deep-water areas, or only Akademik Chersky, which is intended for deep-water areas. Fortuna usually worked in shallow water.

In the Danish waters, there are mainly deep water areas. If only “Akademik Chersky” works, then only it and its supply vessels will be sanctioned, but in this case it will take longer to build. If both pipelayers work in deepwater areas, they will be built faster, but both, along with supply vessels, will be sanctioned. The intrigue is which of the two scenarios will be realized.

“SP”: – But what about certification?

– Problems will arise, but there is no particular news in this. The Norwegians said earlier that they would not certify that they are afraid of sanctions.

Gazprom is following the path of solving problems as they arise. First, it is necessary to complete the construction, then put it into operation, and then remove it from the Third Energy Package.

In terms of certification, I think that the issue is being discussed now whether Gazprom can buy a company or create a Russian company (or give some authority) that can certify. And so that the Europeans recognize the right of this company to issue such certificates. It seems to me that this is the only option, because no Western company will undertake this.

“SP”: – Can the latest US sanctions stop the project?

– Now everything related to construction is prohibited. The current sanctions do not bring anything new, but only specify. Only new bills, which are about the prohibition of operation, maintenance, can change something. But they are at the stage of draft laws, so the text can be changed. In other respects, nothing will change: there is a consensus in the United States on anti-Russian sanctions, with which both Republicans and Democrats agree. They require tightening.

“SP”: – Can the events of the last day somehow influence the actions of the American authorities with regard to the Russian project?

– Unlikely. Americans are now preoccupied with their internal problems, although they often justify them with outside actions. As they blamed Russia for all the troubles, everything remains the same.

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