Canada to return Nord Stream pipeline parts to Germany, defying sanctions
Canada has announced it will return parts needed for the maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany, despite objections from Ukraine that such a move would weaken the sanctions imposed on Russia. Ottawa said action was needed to stabilise the European energy market.
Nord Stream turbines to be returned to Gazprom via Germany
Last month, the Russian energy company Gazprom said that it was being forced to cut gas supplies transported to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 40 percent of usual levels. While German politicians described the move as political, designed to fuel volatility on the energy market, the Russian company insisted it was unavoidable after a number of turbines sent to Canada for repair were held up by state sanctions.
With the Kremlin stating on Friday that it would increase gas supplies to Europe if the parts were returned, Canada has now apparently bowed to the pressure. In a statement on Saturday, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, said that the government was issuing a “time-limited and revocable permit to allow the return of Nord Stream 1 turbines to Germany, supporting Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy as they continue to transition away from Russian oil and gas.”
Wilkinson added that “absent of a necessary supply of natural gas, the German economy will suffer very significant hardship and Germans themselves will be at risk of being unable to heat their homes as winter approaches.”
The German Finance Ministry apparently stepped in to suggest that Canada could return the machinery to Berlin, in order to sidestep the barrier against engaging directly with the Russian company. Germany said that, while it did not accept the maintenance issue as a good reason for gas supplies being cut, the return of the parts would at least prevent Moscow from continuing to use that as an excuse.
Ukraine accuses Canada of weakening sanctions
However, Ukraine has remained firmly against the idea of Canada handing over the turbine, arguing it would flout sanctions. Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, expressed “disappointment by the Canadian government's decision to bow to Russian blackmail.”
Ukraine has previously stated that its own pipelines are capable of transporting a sufficient volume of gas to Europe to make up for the dip in Russian supplies. Urging leaders not to “submit to Kremlin blackmail,” Sergiy Makogon, CEO of Ukrainian gas transmission company GTSOU, wrote on Facebook last week, “We are asking Canada to not return the Gazprom turbine to Germany, but to Ukraine.”
Maintenance work begins
On Monday, Russia reduced exports to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline as scheduled maintenance work got underway. Some officials have expressed concern that the work might be prolonged to fuel uncertainty.
"As expected, Nord Stream 1 is at zero this morning," Klaus Müller, head of Germany's energy regulator, told Reuter. "What happens at the end of the maintenance, nobody is able to say at this moment."
Last month, Energy Minister Robert Habeck expressed a similar sentiment. "Based on the pattern we've seen, it would not be very surprising now if some small, technical detail is found and then they could say "now we can't turn it on anymore," he said.