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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

Nov 26, 2021 - World

Ukraine's president accuses group of planning coup for next week

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Andy Buchanan/Pool/Getty Images

Ukraine has uncovered a group of Russians and Ukrainians plotting an attempted coup for next week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters Friday, the Washington Post reported.

Driving the news: Zelensky didn't accuse the Russian government of involvement in the purposed coup, and Kremlin denied any role, Reuters reported.

Fed signals it could yank economic support quicker as inflation sticks around

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a hearing before Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve will consider pulling back economic support sooner "as the threat of persistently high inflation has grown," chair Jerome Powell said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the biggest signal yet the Fed is backing away from its stance that soaring prices would be fleeting — a change that could shift its policies that underpin the economy.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Crypto meets the real world

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The two largest countries in the world seem intent on effectively banning their citizens from participating in crypto, which poses a serious threat to the crypto agenda.

Why it matters: The crypto world is global — but the real world is fragmented into nation-states, each of which claims control of what happens within its borders.

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