Feb 23, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Nord Stream 2 on the brink

Photo illustration of Nord Stream 2.

Photo illustration via Getty Images

Is Nord Stream 2 dead or just sleeping? It's hard to say yet.

Catch up fast: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday froze certification of the gas pipeline from Russia under the Baltic Sea in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's moves against Ukraine.

What we don't know: The conditions under which Germany, which had long resisted pressure to abandon the big project, might revive the approval process for the pipeline that's constructed but not yet in service.

  • "This is the opening salvo in a long game, but the odds for [Nord Stream 2] look pretty grim right now," Nikos Tsafos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in an email exchange.

The intrigue: "One can make a case that says that there's a value in not being more specific than the German authorities have been, up until this point, because it preserves tactical flexibility going forward," Jonathan Elkind, a top Energy Department international affairs official in the Obama years, tells Axios.

  • Elkind, now with Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, said ambiguity has diplomatic benefits by giving Russia incentives to consider the economic benefits of the project.

What they're saying: The Biden administration cheered Scholz's move, as did European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

  • "We are still too dependent on Russian gas. We have to strategically diversify our suppliers and massively invest in renewables," she tweeted.

Yes, but: Tsafos cautioned via Twitter that Europe's energy security doesn't get stronger even if Nord Stream 2 dies because Europe's policy needs remain.

  • "Diversification of supply, ensuring infrastructure redundancy, stronger regulation of markets, a real strategy for seasonal balancing, faster decarbonization — none of those things rest on NS2," he notes.

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