The 1,230-kilometer long pipeline was built to transport large amounts of natural gas direct from Russia to Europe via Germany. It has been in place for more than five month and has not received a single delivery.
The announcement by Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, was the strongest yet concrete response from the West to Russia’s military action in eastern Ukraine.
But it puts Europe in an uncomfortable position — Russia could simply turn off its other gas taps that power most of the continent and leave millions of people in the dark and cold. Natural gas is the fuel used to power water heaters, furnaces and stoves.
Nord Stream 1, a pipeline similar to Nord Stream 1, already delivers Russian gas to Germany. It runs under the Baltic Sea. As Russia escalated its military intervention in Ukraine overnight, Germany felt the need to stop the project.
Regardless of whether Germany scraps Nord Stream 2 over the long-term, Russia’s actions towards Ukraine make the project politically dead.
Fears that Russia would use Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical weapon to push it interests — and expansionism — in Europe are now proving well founded. The weapon can be loaded with gas, which will further weaken Europe’s position.
The project was already experiencing political problems.
Now Europe — Germany in particular — has an opportunity to use this moment to move away not just from Nord Stream 2 but its growing reliance on fossil gas altogether.
Germany is one of the few developed countries that opposes nuclear power. It is currently closing down its few reactors. It is now dependent on natural gas and will require a radical overhaul to increase energy generation from renewables.
Nuclear energy is limited in its potential role in Europe’s future energy mix, given the environmental risks associated with dealing with radioactive waste. A rapid scale-up of renewables — solar, wind and hydropower — offer security in both energy and climate protection. It would be an easy first step to shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables.
Europe can short-term get gas from other countries, although it is unlikely to replace Russia. However, it may be able to make ends meet and deal with the immediate Russian threat.
The climate crisis, which will continue to plague us for the rest of our lives, will prove more expensive and fatal than any military confrontation.