In the USA, they told exactly what kind of strike America is ready to strike at Nord Stream 2.
New sanctions will not hit Gazprom directly. However, they will complicate the life of companies that will provide Russia with services to complete the gas pipeline. However, new sanctions may come into force when the construction of Nord Stream 2 is completed. And not the last role in this will be played by the US presidential election.
A group of senators is preparing to submit a bill to expand sanctions, Bloomberg and Reuters reported, citing a draft document. They were initiated, as last time, by Texas Republican Senator Tom Cruise and New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jean Shahin. Cruz called Nord Stream 2 a critical threat to US national security, so construction should not be completed. Shakin assures that the pipeline threatens the energy independence of Ukraine and Europe and gives Russia the opportunity to take advantage of US allies. There is nothing new in this rhetoric.
Senators again want to “hide” the new sanctions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the new fiscal year, which begins in the United States on October 1, 2020. Previous sanctions were also spelled out in a similar law on the military budget. This is done so that the US president could not reject the restrictions. As you know, Donald Trump himself does not initiate any sanctions against Russia. But it’s impossible not to accept the military budget. Therefore, Donald Trump signed this document last year, where sanctions were cleverly written.
The only thing that can play into the hands of Russia and Gazprom here is the fact of adopting a military budget with a delay. Last year it was accepted only at the end of December, although the new fiscal year begins two months earlier. However, how quickly they can accept the budget for 2021 this time is a big question. The main question is whether they will be in time before the US presidential election, which is scheduled for November 3.
What new sanctions are looming over Nord Stream 2? We are still not talking about sanctions directly against Gazprom. US senators threaten to introduce measures, firstly, against companies that insure the Russian vessels involved in the completion of the project, provide underwriting services (financial services that guarantee payment in the event of financial losses), insurance or reinsurance for vessels working on the project.
Secondly, against companies that provide port services to Russian vessels. Thirdly, they provide services for retrofitting or retrofitting pipe-laying vessels, as well as ships that will work in tandem with pipe-laying.
In this way,
the Akademik Chersky pipe-laying vessel, which is supposed to lay the last 130 km of pipes (in two strands) in the deep Danish section, and the Fortuna pipe-laying barge, could be hit
which should build a small shallow section in Germany, technologically connected with the Danish section of the pipe. Plus, sanctions can affect supply vessels, which Cherskiy will need to deliver pipes and Fortuna barge. The latter will also need tugboats, including those with a dynamic positioning system.
Insurance for the ship is important because without it you can not go through canals and call at ports. This was probably one of the reasons why the Akademik Chersky pipe-laying vessel was muddling the tracks of its way from the port of Nakhodka. Until recently, ports of arrival in the Baltic Sea were not indicated in the ship’s route. This was probably done so that the United States did not have a formal reason to harm the ship through a ban on the insurance of the ship. Indeed, without this, it is impossible to make such a long journey.
“In fact, problems with insurance could have arisen due to old stations. Therefore, Gazprom should have taken this into account and prepared, ”says Igor Yushkov, a leading expert at the National Energy Security Fund.
According to him, Gazprom may try to resolve this issue by ensuring the vessel with the help of Chinese or Russian companies, for example, through a Russian bank, which is already under sanctions. In the event that insurance is now valid from foreign companies and they are afraid of US sanctions.
“The Academician Chersky most likely has insurance. It is unclear whether the moment is spelled out in the contract, what happens if the ship is subject to sanctions. Is the insurance issued conditionally for a year removed or does it continue to be valid until the end of the term because the fact of insurance occurred before the adoption of the sanctions, ”says Yushkov. One way or another, but the issue of insurance, Gazprom is likely to try to solve, especially since restrictions in this direction could be predicted in advance.
The blow to companies that help Russian ships with modernization and retrofitting does not seem so scary, according to Yushkov. First, the United States, like us, apparently does not have information on how much the same “Academician Chersky” needs technical modernization or whether it needs it at all. It is possible that all the necessary work has already been done, and even a tender for this work, which officially appeared last fall, could be held retroactively, the expert does not rule out. Or the ship was finally modernized during the long route from the port of Nakhodka to Mukran. Or the work is being completed now in the German port, etc.
In any case, according to Yushkov, the United States will only be able to strike at Academician Chersky with sanctions only when he breaks the ban — namely, he enters Danish waters and begins the completion of Nord Stream 2. Only then will the sanctions be enforced. So far, “Chersky” did not violate anything. But if the pipe-laying vessel starts laying pipes in Danish waters, then it will obviously be technically ready for such work.
Sanctions against companies providing port services, in fact, will not have to hit Academician Chersky and Fortune. “When the Academician Chersky reaches the completion point in Danish waters, he will no longer need a port. Until he completes the gas pipeline, he will not leave from there. Pipes will be delivered to him by other supply vessels, ”Yushkov explains. The same situation is with Fortune.
Another thing is that they promise to extend sanctions, including to supply vessels, which will help complete the pipe. So, special pipes for the gas pipeline, apparently, are located in the German port of Mukran, which is located 300 km from Berlin. And the supply vessel will have to call at this port several times to load pipes and transfer them to Chersky in Danish waters.
“Will the German port of Mukran fall under US sanctions? This is a big question.
Here it will be necessary to wait for clarification of how this will work, ”says an expert at the NESF. Indeed, in essence, these will be sanctions against Germany, which most of all in Europe benefits from Nord Stream 2 by investing billions of euros in it, and is trying to help its implementation to the best of its ability. It is one thing to impose sanctions against the Swiss Allseas, for which it does not matter whether the gas pipeline is completed. And another thing is to affect German business. Such sanctions against the European ally of the United States may strongly dislike Germany.
Sanctions against ships that assist in the completion of Nord Stream 2 can lead to difficulties. “If the supply vessel delivers pipes to Chersky, then sanctions are imposed against it. But it’s not clear whether the vessel thus becomes disposable or will it be able to call again at the port for a new batch of pipes? ” – argues Igor Yushkov.
In his opinion, such incomprehensible moments could play into Gazprom’s hands, as the practice of the first sanctions introduced in December showed. Then the Swiss company Allseas, whose pipe-laying vessels built Nord Stream 2, made a request in the United States to clarify the application of the sanctions. It took the Americans time to answer, and he was like this: pipe-laying vessels have a month to curtail their work in the Danish waters. The Swiss were scared and did not continue to work. Although this month actually could be enough to complete the completion of Nord Stream 2.
However, Russian ships are not Swiss. And if due to unclear wording in the American law they will have additional time for clarification, etc., then they, of course, will use it.
Moreover, Igor Yushkov believes that in one way or another, Gazprom is ready for its vessels to be sanctioned while working on Nord Stream 2. This is not something unexpected, on the contrary, it is quite expected and predictable.
“The fact that Gazprom brought Akademik Chersky to the Baltic Sea shows that he was ready for sanctions against Gazprom Fleet, which owned the ship, within the framework of the restrictions adopted in December. Even a change of ownership does not play a big role. Because the previous document states that in case of such a trick (change of ownership, resale), the previous owner falls under the sanction, ”Yushkov explains.
Previous sanctions meant blocking accounts in the United States, and, in fact, the inability to conduct any transactions in dollars. But you can pay Gazprom Fleet for the work of ships in rubles, the expert adds.
How fast can Nord Stream 2 be completed? Gazprom was waiting for the summer to start work, including because of the weather