The Estonian American National Council (EANC) is tracking and helping to raise the profile of a number of issues in the 117th Congress of interest to the Estonian American community. This article is the first in a series intended to spotlight a different high-profile issue in each installment. We hope to give our constituents useful background information and a better understanding of the relationship of each issue to Estonia and to broader regional security.
This week, our focus is on the natural gas pipeline currently under construction between Russia and Germany.
Nord Stream 2 (NS2) is a pipeline owned by the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom intended to deliver natural gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany. It is being built by a multinational conglomerate of interests alongside the original Nord Stream pipeline, which was completed in 2011. Its route goes from Russian ports on the Gulf of Finland across the gulf and Baltic Sea to a port on the German Baltic coast. Estonian government officials have expressed opposition to the pipeline as detrimental to European energy security, and called out Russia’s goal to use it to divide Europe and undermine transatlantic security.
While the German and Russian governments maintain that the pipeline is an economic and commercial venture, many critics see troubling political implications. By bypassing existing overland routes through eastern European countries, perhaps most notably Ukraine, the Kremlin would no longer have to pay transit fees that those nations depend on as assurance against Russia’s aggressive agenda toward their democratic governments. In Ukraine’s case, the government stands to lose up to $2.1 billion in transit fees that give it leverage against Russia’s encroachment on Ukrainian sovereignty. The pipeline could entrench Russian dominance in the European gas market for the long term, significantly strengthening Moscow’s political influence throughout Europe. It would provide Russia with a new funding source, and make central and eastern Europe, including our Baltic allies, more vulnerable to Russian military might.
The U.S. has passed legislation to address its political concerns about NS2. The Protecting European Energy Security Act of 2019 (PEESA), amended in 2020, imposes sanctions on foreign business entities involved in constructing the pipeline. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 also included sanctions targeting companies enabling the construction of NS2. Work on the pipeline was suspended in December 2019 after PEESA was signed into law, but the project was not permanently stopped. Diplomatic initiatives implemented by the Biden Administration have not halted the resumption of the work. The pipeline is now over 90% complete and completion is projected for sometime this summer. Once finished, it will be a permanent tool for advancing the Kremlin’s war on European democracy.
EANC’s advocacy focus on this issue is to maintain bipartisan outreach to the Administration to enforce the sanctions laws that have been enacted in recent years. Senators from both parties have written to the White House to raise the urgency of using these existing legislative mandates to build and implement new sanctions packages. While the sensitivities around the U.S. relationship with Germany are clear, failure to protect the security of Europe from the leverage that NS2 would place firmly in the Kremlin’s grasp could be a much bigger problem, which no amount of diplomatic effort will repair. EANC invites Estonian Americans to help share this message by contacting your Senators and Representatives to ask that sanctions targeting the construction of the pipeline be enforced before work is finished.
To learn more about the project, the Congressional Research Service report on the topic provides a comprehensive overview. The Senate letters on the subject are available at foreign.senate.gov under Chairman’s Press for March 23rd and at barrasso.senate.gov under news releases on March 3rd.