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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

Construction was officially completed Friday on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in delivering natural gas directly to the heart of Europe, according to Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Why it matters: The $11 billion pipeline has been condemned as a "Kremlin geopolitical project" by the Biden administration and is vigorously opposed by Ukraine, which considers it to be a grave threat to national security.

The big picture: U.S. sanctions targeting firms involved in the pipeline froze progress in 2019, frustrating Germany and the European Union, but construction by Russian vessels resumed a year later.

  • President Biden, viewing the project as a "fait accompli" and seeking to reset U.S.-Germany relations that had frayed under the Trump administration, waived sanctions earlier this year.
  • The move drew outrage from bipartisan members of Congress and countries in Eastern Europe, who warned that Russia could use the pipeline to "pressure and blackmail" its former client state Ukraine.

Hoping to assuage those fears, Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached an agreement in July to take action if Russia tries to "use energy as a weapon," set up a "green fund" to help Ukraine modernize its energy sector, and seek to ensure Russia continues to pay Ukraine around $3 billion in gas transit fees annually.

  • The Ukrainians view the deal as woefully inadequate, and had hoped for a pledge of military support or some kind of long-term national security commitment that would send a signal to Russia.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Biden at the White House last month in hopes of securing additional commitments, but came away disappointed.

What's next: Though construction is now completed, Nord Stream 2 won't start delivering gas until the pipeline is cleared by German regulators.

Go deeper: Biden taps Russia hawk Amos Hochstein to oversee Nord Stream 2 deal

Go deeper

Coast guard: California oil pipeline may have been dragged by cargo ship

Shoreline cleanup crews pick up tar balls that have washed ashore along the beach at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach on Oct. 14. Photo: Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Investigators seeking the cause of the massive California oil spill said Sunday that the pipeline at the center of the leak may have been dragged along the ocean floor by a 1,200-foot cargo ship months before, AP reports.

Driving the news: The Panama-registered MSC DANIT may have struck the pipeline with its anchor when it arrived at the Port of Long Beach during a severe storm in January, breaking the pipe's inch-thick concrete casing and dragging it more than 100 feet, per AP.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Mapping repression in China's Xinjiang region

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.

Report: U.S. Latinos near 50% homeownership rate

Real estate broker Alex Betances sits in front of a home in Reading, Pa. Photo: Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Image

Latinos increased their homeownership rate to nearly 50% in 2020, according to a report from a group monitoring U.S. Hispanic wealth creation.

Why it matters: The Hispanic Wealth Project found that the homeownership rate grew despite the lack of diversified financial assets among Latinos and around 15% who still live below the federal poverty line ($26,500 for a family of four).

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