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Oct 21, 2021
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Russian gas triggers bipolar disorder in the US

Photo: receiving terminal of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Photo: receiving terminal of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (Photo: Stefan Sauer / dpa / Global Look Press)

The American authorities intend to prosecute the Russian company Gazprom for violating Washington’s sanctions on the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project. This was stated by the First Deputy Secretary of the Treasury of the United States Wally Adeimo

On Tuesday, October 19, the official was invited to a meeting of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs of the US Senate, where he was asked about how the US sanctions policy is being implemented in the situation with Gazprom, and what his department is going to do with “ Nord Stream – 2 “. Senators are very unhappy that the administration Biden previously decided not to take new restrictive measures against the Russian gas pipeline, but we are confident that the company violated earlier sanctions, and, therefore, should be punished.

The representative of the Ministry of Finance agreed with this opinion and assured the members of the committee that his department would do everything “to bring Gazprom to responsibility for violating our rules.” At the same time, Adeyemo could not specify exactly what the company was guilty of. And he avoided answering the question of whether the operator of the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, falls under the American sanctions, and Gazprom remains its sole shareholder.

As you know, Washington refused to introduce restrictive measures against Nord Stream 2 AG, as well as the executive director of the company back in the spring. Matthies Warnig… And the secretary of state Anthony Blinken admitted then that this decision was in the national interests of the United States.

In this regard, it is completely illogical that the American authorities have come up with claims to Gazprom right now, when Nord Stream 2 is actually ready for operation. Moreover, at the beginning of winter, when an energy crisis broke out in Europe, their plans to bring the Russian holding to justice look just like a sophisticated mockery of common sense.

States show clear bipolar disorder. Because at first – “for the sake of stability” – they call on Russia to save freezing Europe and demand to increase gas supplies to European consumers (they themselves are in no hurry to help and bring their gas to Asia, where prices are higher). And then they begin to threaten Gazprom for the fact that the Nord Stream 2, which it has built, will help this very Europe to warm up.

SP asked to comment on the situation Leading Analyst of the National Energy Security Fund, Lecturer at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation Igor Yushkov:

– It seems to me that all this is more connected with the intra-American showdown. And some congressmen want to score political points on the topic of sanctions against Gazprom for Nord Stream 2. Therefore, they are raising the question with the Biden administration, what will happen to those who violated the sanctions. After all, the sanctions have obviously been violated.

In December 2019, the United States officially introduced two types of restrictive measures against Nord Stream 2 – a ban on financing and a ban on the provision of construction services. By that time, funding had actually already been allocated, so it is extremely difficult to prove a violation here.

But the “violation” of construction is obvious. The Swiss company Allseas then left the project – it refused to lay pipes due to the threat of US sanctions.

And it took Russia a year to prepare its pipe-laying vessels. Let me remind you that it was the Fortuna barge that basically completed everything, was slightly involved in the work (but, nevertheless, it was involved) “Academician Chersky”, And many supply vessels were also involved in the completion of the pipeline.

Then there were secondary sanctions against violators of the restrictions imposed earlier by the Americans.

“SP”: – Explain.

– You can’t finish building – “Fortuna” was finishing building. She began laying, respectively, in December 2020 – i.e. exactly one year after the imposition of sanctions. And in January 2021, it was already included in the same list of “violators” – the ship itself, its direct owner … etc.

Almost all the vessels that we used in the offshore section of the pipeline were included in the same list.

And now the Republican senators are asking the deputy minister a question, because it is his department that oversees the sanctions: “How did they impose restrictions, forbid anyone to finish building Nord Stream 2, but it was completed anyway?” That is, someone must be punished for this.

And a representative of the Ministry of Finance answers them roughly the following: “We brought Romashka LLC, which owns these pipe-laying vessels, to the sanctions lists, but they don’t care. They do not have accounts in the United States, do not work on the international market, and do not carry out payments in dollars. Therefore, they wanted to spit on the sanctions – as they built, and they are building ”.

This is a dangerous precedent for the United States. After all, other countries later may also want to ignore their sanctions.

This worries the Americans. They want, as it were, more blood of sanctions, and are hinting that let’s punish Gazprom. Because he is the beneficiary of Nord Stream 2.

“SP”: – How can they punish a Russian company? Will it be forbidden to trade in gas? Will the shares crash? Or will they introduce personal sanctions against the management?

– I think that the United States, of course, will not automatically solve this issue. Here “Fortune” fell under the sanctions automatically, but it provided services.

At the same time, it does not formally follow from the American sanctions that the customer of the services also falls under the sanctions. There is a wording that “it is forbidden to provide a completion service”, but that “it is forbidden to order completion services” – there is no such wording there.

That is, there is nothing to attract Gazprom here, in theory.

The deputy head of the Ministry of Finance, however, said that “we are discussing this issue.” Maybe so. But I think they are unlikely to impose sanctions against Gazprom.

“SP”: – Why, no?

– Because it will mean that Gazprom will become a “toxic” company. It will not be possible to have any contracts with him at all. And this is an obviously impossible condition.

Of course, the United States understands that if it imposes such sanctions, no one will comply with them. Moreover, now that Gazprom is the main supplier in Europe, and it cannot but fulfill these contacts.

Again, this would be a severe blow to the Europeans if they were now suddenly forced to give up Russian gas when they are already facing such a difficult heating season.

It is clear that the Europeans would continue to buy gas and continue contacts with Gazprom. They would simply recognize the US sanctions system as inadequate and stop paying attention to it. It is also unprofitable for the Americans.

Therefore, I think they understand perfectly well that it is impossible to impose sanctions against Gazprom. Otherwise, they would have been introduced back in 2014-2015, when the first wave of sanctions began – over the Crimea, over the Donbass …

Then, by the way, many Russian energy companies, including NOVATEK and Rosneft, fell under restrictions. For example, they were forbidden to issue loans. But Gazprom avoided this either. Because it is strategically important for Europeans.

Even under administration Swap, which did not put the interests of Europe into anything, and promoted exclusively American interests, no sanctions were imposed on Gazprom. And Biden, in general, actively interacts with Europe, shows that Washington takes their interests into account – please, they did not interfere with the completion of Nord Stream 2, they are trying not to interfere with its commissioning.

Therefore, now, of course, no one will introduce any restrictions against Gazprom.

“SP”: – How then to understand the statement of the American Deputy Minister?

– It seems to me that there was no statement as such. It’s just that a snippet of dialogue from a rather formal meeting has somehow leaked to the media. An official of the Ministry of Finance, relatively speaking, was asked if you were considering such and such an option. He said: “Yes, we are considering.”

This should not be taken literally as the elaboration of sanctions against Gazprom.

As for the launch of Nord Stream 2, all that remains is to complete the certification. The deadline is January 8th. But, rather, we will see some kind of solution already in November.

The current crisis is urging the Europeans to decide somehow. And, at least, be able to receive additional gas.

Now Russia is ready to supply additional volumes of gas to Europe, but via the route that is beneficial to itself. Because when you send more contract volumes through Ukraine, you have to pay at a higher tariff. It is not profitable for us.

Therefore, we propose: if you want more gas (we are already fulfilling all our long-term contracts), let’s launch it along the route that is beneficial to us – i.e. along the “Nord Stream – 2”. It is clear that he will not fundamentally change the situation in Europe. But, nevertheless, it will help to somehow positively influence this critical situation.

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