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It weighs over 18 tonnes, is 12 meters long and if it doesn’t move quickly, it could devastate Europe’s economy.
A gargantuan gas turbine – essentially a massive engine – sat in Cologne for days, stuck in sanctions limbo. It should have been flown over Finland and into Russia now, to start pushing vital gas supplies through the Nord Stream pipeline to the EU.
If it doesn’t arrive by Monday to replace a worn-out twin, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned flows through the undersea gas link will plummet again. And although the pipeline connects Russia to Germany, the ripple effect would hurt all of Europe. Brussels estimates that if gas supplies from Russia are interrupted, it could affect the bloc’s economy by up to 1.5% of GDP.
Over the past month, German Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck has spent considerable political capital convincing Canada to return the turbine from a maintenance facility in Montreal, as a one-time exception to sanctions against Russia. for his invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv is, as you can imagine, furious.
But since landing on German soil earlier this week, the turbine – made by Munich-based Siemens Energy – has not moved forward.
But whose fault is it? Germany? Russia? Canada?
“Sometimes it feels like Russia doesn’t want to take it back anymore,” Habeck complained at a Thursday night news conference, while media representatives from the company that runs the pipeline said Friday that the issue of the turbines “is not the responsibility of Nord Stream AG.”
Gazprom, the Russian state-backed company waiting to receive the repaired component, says the problem is a lack of documentation proving the turbine can be moved without penalties.
“Gazprom has repeatedly asked Siemens to provide official documentation confirming the granting of an exemption from the current Canadian and European Union sanctions regimes,” the company said in a statement on Friday. “Siemens still hasn’t provided them.”
Siemens Energy said Friday it “has nothing to do with it.”
“Naturally, we want to get the turbine to its place of operation as quickly as possible,” a Siemens spokesperson said by email. But “the time it takes is not exclusively in our control.”
Unnamed sources quoted by Reuters on Friday claimed that it is in fact the lack of Russian customs documents that is to blame.
Contacted to comment on the allegation that the delay is on the Russian side, a spokesperson for the Russian diplomatic mission to the EU said on Friday that “we in the mission are not directly involved in the matter. “.
Germany’s permanent representation to the EU did not respond to a request for comment.
While we pass the buck, the blood of Ukrainians boils. The government in Kyiv has denounced the turbine standoff as an elaborate ruse, given that Russia is free to send gas to Europe via Ukraine but chooses not to.
Brussels has also called the issue of turbines a red herring. “Russia is blackmailing us,” warned European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.
On Thursday, “several German officials and a Gazprom official in Europe” told the Wall Street Journal that “Nord Stream has an elaborate emergency system with at least one spare turbine available at all times.”
Putin, as usual, deviated.
“I’ll tell you why Canada did it,” the Russian president said Wednesday of the delay in moving the turbine from Montreal. “Because it produces oil and gas itself and plans to enter the European market!”
Meanwhile, in Ottawa, two federal ministers and three ambassadors are invited to testify before Parliament about exactly how they decided a sanctions waiver was warranted.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told German media on Wednesday that Canadians “have a lot of questions” about the plan.
“And we said, ‘we can understand that, but if we don’t get the gas turbine, then we won’t get any more gas, and then we can’t support Ukraine at all, because we’ll be occupied by popular uprisings,” Baerbock said, before immediately backtracking to say that this version of events was “perhaps a bit of a stretch.”
A Ukrainian community group in Winnipeg is suing to revoke the permit to send the turbine to Germany and is eagerly awaiting the Canadian version of events.
Parliamentary hearings into the Winnipeg group’s lawsuit were due to take place this week, according to ministers’ schedules. But committee members are now being told they won’t be performing until the end of next week at the earliest.
However, there is no risk that the problem will be swept under the rug anytime soon – five more wind turbines are said to be on their way from Canada.
Maura Forrest in Ottawa contributed reporting.
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