The construction of Nord Stream II, a pipeline project aimed to transport Russian gas directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea, is currently the most significant test and hurdle that the Biden administration has to face. Making robust statements against Russia since they took office, the Biden administration seems poised to take potent actions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. However, these actions become more fragile when Germany and the EU are added to the equilibrium. When the risk of alienating vital allies arises, it becomes clear that everything need not be solved through coercion, but more calculated methods are necessary.
First of all, one has to look at the necessities that enabled this project. Russia currently supplies almost 40 percent of Europe's gas needs. In total, nearly 200 billion cubic meters of LNG are now imported from the country annually. The US is opposed to the construction of Nord Stream II mainly due to concerns regarding the ene1rgy security of Europe and the current situation of Ukraine, which is very fragile under oppression from both sides. When completed, Nord Stream 2 is expected to transport about a quarter of Russian gas exports. It is expected to change the routes by which gas enters European markets: Less gas will be imported through pipelines that cross Ukraine. Cutoffs in transportation resulting from Russian-Ukrainian disputes in the 2000s forced the European Union to interconnect the gas market inside the union and construct better infrastructure for their pipeline network. These disruptions also encouraged Germany and other European states to support the construction of new pipelines bypassing Ukraine, such as Nord Stream and Turk Stream, thereby minimizing the risk to supplies from Russian-Ukrainian conflicts. In a similar effort, Germany took the chance to build a direct pipeline in the Baltic Sea with Russian cooperation, thereby circumventing Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic States. Such an effort will definitely lower Germany's energy costs and deny those countries the transshipment fees that have long been a fundamental part of their incomes.
Under these circumstances, it is clear that neither Germany nor Russia would be willing to give up on the project, and a potential US sanction on its most prominent ally in Europe would be understood as an insult. In the end, how would the US react if European Union decided to put sanctions on a US project? The EU made it clear that it stands with Germany, and any sanction on European firms would be seen as disrespectful. Hence, the sanction would probably do more harm than good, and one should seek more effective ways to maintain energy security in Europe if this is the primary concern.
Firstly, the US must understand that the Nord Stream II project was initiated with Germany's legitimate concerns. Since the instability in Ukraine is damaging to the European energy security, one has to look for ways to make Ukraine more peaceful for multilateral economic relations. The US has to understand its mistakes in Ukraine. As John Mearsheimer has argued, it should work with Russia to make Ukraine an independently stable country between Russia and Europe. If it acts as an "Economic Buffer Zone" with an independent military force, Ukraine has the tremendous potential to foster economic ties between Russia and Europe. Since the Nord Stream II is almost 95% completed, the US should recognize its being and rather than trying to stop it with an inconclusive effort, should accept that its contribution to Europe as a fact now. For further energy security, it may help end the conflict in Ukraine and support other energy relations with countries neighboring Europe. More pipelines, more facilities, and more partners to reach a competitive gas market seem to be the only way out of current energy security crises. Europe would be satisfied with more options, countries that have the potential to act as an energy trade hub would be satisfied with transportation and market fees. Even Russia, which is the major LNG monopoly in the Eurasian region would be satisfied, for it would reach more customers. Ukraine as an economic buffer zone, and Turkey as the holder of two important straits can help achieve such a win-win result for both the suppliers and consumers of gas.
Hastings Ismay, 1st Secretary-General of NATO, once said that the alliance's purpose was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." The Biden administration is clearly striving to do so. However, their actions to establish a liberal regime in Ukraine and the discussion of economic sanctions against the biggest NATO country in Europe do nothing to achieve this aim. Instead, it provokes the Russians, alienates the Germans, and has the potential to leave the Americans out of the equilibrium altogether.