When Matthias Warnig, chief executive of the company building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, arrived for a meeting at the historic lakeside state chancellery building here, he carried a bright bouquet of flowers.
It was August 2020 and Trump administration sanctions on the nearly constructed pipeline under the Baltic Sea had caused final work on the project to grind to a halt. Warnig, a former officer in the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, was looking for ways around the U.S. action.
His quest — and his gift of sunflowers and snapdragons — found a receptive audience.
“It is outrageous,” said Manuela Schwesig, head of the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, of the U.S. move to target any firm helping to complete the pipeline. Two gas routes — Nord Stream 1 and 2 — came ashore in her northern German state.
“But,” Schwesig continued after her meeting with Warnig, “I’m confident we’ll find a solution.”
The eventual solution was the creation by the state government of an opaque, largely Russian-funded climate foundation designed to complete the construction while shielding the firms it contracted with from U.S. sanctions. The expectation was that a German state entity would not be put under U.S. sanctions, and that the foundation would quietly act as the pipeline contractor while maintaining a public facade focused on environmental issues. [Continue reading…]