Against the background of all recent events, it seems that Nord Stream 2 has always existed. As well as the problems associated with it. But this is far from the case. Now many people forget that the SP-2 project was launched only in February 2017, when Nord Stream 2 AG (100% of shares belong to PJSC Gazprom) signed an agreement with the Swiss company Allseas, which owns unique pipe-laying vessels, for laying the underwater part gas pipeline. In April 2017, five more European companies entered the project in equal shares (1 billion euros each) - French ENGIE, Austrian OMV, British-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell and two German Uniper and Wintershall, which signed an agreement with Nord Stream 2 AG on long-term financing of the project in a 50/50 ratio. And only after that, in September 2018, the first pipes lay on the bottom of the Gulf of Finland.
Soon it will be 3 years since the money of the European partners, as well as of Gazprom, is buried at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The total cost of the project is about $ 11 billion. Moreover, Gazprom's money is only $ 5,5 billion, the same number of European partners, and another $ 5 billion are invested by them in the onshore infrastructure of the project (each country pays for itself) , the Czechs have already finished their ground-based continuation of the SP-2, the Austrians too, the Germans are finishing, there remains sheer nonsense! The same nonsense remained on the underwater part of the route (by the time I write these lines, just over 100 km, in Danish and German sections in total).
And at the time of 2014, there was no SP-2 at all. The capacities of the JV-1 available at that time (design capacity 55 billion cubic meters / year), the Ukrainian GTS (142,5 billion cubic meters / year) and the Yamal-EU gas pipeline (32,9 billion cubic meters / year) were quite enough in order to fulfill all of Gazprom's obligations to its European consumers. With only one amendment - Poland and Ukraine in every possible way obstructed the modernization of their GTS (Poland under the influence of American friends, and Ukraine, then with Yanukovych, bargaining with the Russian Federation, who will carry out this modernization and at whose expense). As a result, the idea of bypass routes to Ukraine and Poland - South Stream and SP-2 - appeared. But South Stream was buried due to the efforts of Bulgaria, standing at gunpoint by the United States. We were also lucky that Erdogan took the time to hurry up and replace South Stream with Turkish, with a capacity of 31,5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, half of which goes to Turkey, half to Southern Europe (Bulgaria is now biting its lips, but late - her train left irrevocably). Problems with the SP-2 remained. And Donbass has become hostage to these problems.
Why Donbass became dependent on SP-2
After the start of the construction of the Crimean bridge, it became clear that Putin had no plans to seize all of Ukraine, he would not have taken the Donbass as much as possible, limiting himself only to Crimea, but it just so happened - the people rebelled, they had to take it under their protection and take over control. If after Debaltsev Ukraine went to implement Minsk-2, it might not have had to build any SP-2, the throughput capacity of the Ukrainian GTS was quite enough for Gazprom to fulfill its contractual obligations to European customers. But Poroshenko, and then Zelensky, who replaced him, sabotaged the implementation of the Minsk agreements in every possible way, and as an element of pressure on them, SP-2 arose, in the hope that when the content of Ukraine would completely fall on the shoulders of its overseas curators, both she and they would become more compliant.
In the meantime, from the budget of the Russian Federation for this in the period from 2020 to 2024, at least 7,2 billion dollars should be spent as payment for the transit of Russian gas through the Ukrainian GTS. And then this amount has become smaller, before the launch of the "Turkish Stream" at full capacity, the Russian Federation unfastened for the needs of Ukraine 2-3 billion dollars annually. Compare these figures with the costs of Gazprom for the construction of the SP-2 in order to understand the insignificance of these costs and not make Gazprom dependent on the implementation of this project. Germany is more interested in it, which then becomes the largest gas hub in Europe, and Ukraine, which, on the contrary, loses guaranteed income with its launch. For Russia, its significance is rather not economic, political character. With the launch of SP-2, her hands will be untied, and then she will be able to resolve the bleeding problem of Donbass, which has become hostage to the EU's gas supply.
Do not forget that at the time of 2014 the RF budget was export-oriented and 51% was formed through the sale of hydrocarbons. We must admit the truth in the words of the 44th US President Barack Obama, Russia in 2014 "was a gas station in Europe." Figuratively, of course. We supplied there not even gasoline or diesel fuel, but raw materials for the production of these (crude oil), as well as gas for electricity and heat generating capacities of the EU, i.e. in other words, we supplied hydrocarbons. Europe was 36% dependent on them, and we were 51% dependent on revenues from these exports (the share of oil and gas revenues in the RF budget revenues in 2014 reached its maximum and stopped at 51,3%). The Kremlin could not cut off the main source of funds for the budget, so it was forced to get involved in the endless mess of Ukraine's implementation of Minsk-2, leading it to an independent exit from it, after which Moscow's hands would be untied. But Ukraine is still pulling the cat by the tail, not saying "yes" or "no", putting forward all the new impracticable demands. In this situation, the Kremlin found itself constrained in resolving Donbass issues, and that is why SP-2017 was launched in 2.
But how to explain this to the inhabitants of the LPR, who have been living in limbo between heaven and earth for the 7th year already? The situation there is just awful. For obvious reasons, many enterprises there are shut down, there is no sales, the products are not in demand. Those few enterprises that work are not able to pay high salaries to their employees, also for obvious reasons. And the prices for food there are comparable to those in Moscow, due to the fact that they are all supplied from the Big Earth. There is no work, there are no prospects either, which, despite the low tariffs for housing and communal services, leads to mass migration of the population, in fact to flight. Moreover, what is significant, a significant part of them leaves not for the Russian Federation, which would be natural, but for Ukraine, which suggests some thoughts of a completely non-patriotic nature (apparently, the Russian Federation is not at all interested in these people if it creates such problems for them that it is easier for them move to the Ukrainian territories with their well-known attitude to the political regime established there, rather than try to adapt in Russia). But the people defending the independence of the self-proclaimed republics at the front also do not understand what they are fighting for? Yes, they protect their homes and their loved ones, but should there be at least some purpose? One thing is the independence of the LDNR or joining the Russian Federation, and quite another thing is to keep everything as it is or even join Ukraine. Agree, for people who risk their lives every second, the goal is, frankly, little motivating, if not worse.
Even the last victory of the Kremlin, when by his actions he actually thwarted the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbass, looks like a Pyrrhic victory for them. They agreed to go into the last and decisive battle, because a terrible end is better than an endless horror (especially since a terrible end was prepared not at all for the defenders of Donbass, but for their opponents), but Putin had other plans for this. This could lead to a general change in the entire disposition on the board. And then, together with Donbass, Putin risked taking for himself another half of Ukraine, with all the resulting bonuses in the form of disconnection from SWIFT, the economic embargo and the Iron Curtain-2.0 in general. Isn't the price too high for the LPNR annexation? Why would he have such victories ?!
SP-2 entered the final stage. Completion of construction this year
But against the backdrop of all this hopelessness, I also have joyful news for these people. Rumors have already leaked to the press that the builders of SP-2 faced certain difficulties when they crossed the SP-1 line (SP-2 intersects SP-1 in two places, the Swiss passed the first crossing, the second one will have to be passed by Russian pipelayers), they say, for this is what ships are needed for filling soil and stones at the intersection point, but there are none (foreigners are afraid, they have to drive their own). So, I inform you that nothing of this is needed, everything has already been poured in advance, when TUB "Fortuna" and KMTUS "Akademik Chersky" come to this point, they will pass it without even noticing.
Another obstacle to the project was the lawsuits of two German environmental organizations Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and the Union for the Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity (NABU) against Nord Stream 2 AG, challenging the permission issued to it by the German Federal Agency for Maritime and Hydrographic Management (BSH) for the completion of the unfinished section of the gas pipeline in the exclusive economic zone of Germany due to the fact that it "poses a threat to marine nature and fauna, and destroys the habitat of birds on the seabed with an area of more than 16 football fields." This is the first time I've heard that birds live on the seabed! Well, okay, let's write it off on translation errors. BSH has already dismissed these claims as groundless. The two organizations have now applied to the Hamburg Administrative Court. At the time of consideration of the claim, BSH was forced to suspend the permit for laying the unfinished section of the gas pipeline.
All the spiteful critics of the project in Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States and the United States have already happily thrown their caps into the air, and their German ecological pads, counting the money that fabulously suddenly fell on their accounts from overseas grants, just screwed up their eyes in embarrassment and said: “Well, what you, right? This is our responsibility! We cannot sleep, thinking how our birds will poop there, sitting on a Russian gas pipe ?! ”. I hasten to disappoint them. The decision of the German regulator BSH to temporarily suspend work in the German FEZ on the basis of another lawsuit by German environmentalists until the end of May does not matter for the work underway today, since the work is now being carried out in the Danish FEZ. Most likely, Nord Stream 2 AG will not even spend money on protesting the claims of NABU, because the ban is valid only until the end of May.
As of May 3, the pipe-laying barge Fortuna still has 8,4 km to lay in Danish waters, which will take ten days to complete in good weather. The crane-and-assembly pipe-laying vessel "Akademik Chersky" still has to plow and plow to the borders of Germany - 66,6 km. In the German free economic zone "Fortune" will have to reach 13,6 km, and "Akademik Chersky" - 14,4 km. So far, the only obstacle to their work is only bad weather.
The fact is that when the wind increases over 10 m / s for Chersky and over 8 m / s for Fortuna, they have to drop the pipe so as not to lead to an accident. The Swiss "Pioneering Spirit" could operate at a wind speed of 6 m / s, without reducing the laying speed (the maximum for it was 4,8 km / day), and did not drop the pipe at all. It should be borne in mind that it takes 12 hours for Chersky to lift the pipe, and almost a day for Fortuna (from the moment the hook operation starts to the start of the laying movement). In addition, the wave height (sea waves) also significantly affects the laying speed, I am not talking about the depth and topography of the bottom, wind direction, course to the wave, current speed, water density and the presence of floating algae. This spring, the weather at the place of laying is a disaster. Locals will not remember such a frequency of storm winds in April on the Pomeranian seaside. If the weather conditions allowed, the "Akademik Chersky" is capable of laying up to 3,15 km / day (with a wind speed of no more than 4 m / s), and "Fortuna" up to 1,21 km / day (with a wind of no more than 3 m /from). As the wind speed increases, the laying speed naturally decreases.
But be that as it may, this year we will finish SP-2. For "Akademik Chersky" the estimated time of completion of work is June 30, for "Fortune" - 15 days earlier, on June 15. When is a meeting between Putin and Biden scheduled for there? Second half of June? I think they will be in time by this time. That will add trump cards to Vladimir Vladimirovich's negotiating basket. After that, he will be able to put the question of Donbass squarely - either Biden's wards are officially leaving Minsk-2, which will allow Moscow to recognize the self-proclaimed republics, or options are possible. What kind? I think that even before 2024 the fate of Donbass will be decided and not in favor of Ukraine. With the completion of the SP-2 laying, the Kremlin's hands will be untied. That's all for me.