US preparing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 firms: WSJ

Washington is preparing to impose sanctions on EU firms that help finance Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, the Wall Street Journal has reported, citing US officials it did not name.

Sanctions would also be slapped on companies involved in laying the pipes for the gas link in the Baltic Sea, according to the US financial daily.

In an article entitled “How a Russian Gas Pipeline Is Driving a Wedge Between the U.S. and Its Allies,” the Wall Street Journal’s Germany correspondent, Bojan Pancevski, reported that the German-Russian pipeline project is a bone of contention between Berlin and Washington, “which fears it will make Europe’s largest economy excessively reliant on Russian energy.”

“After years of diplomatic efforts to persuade consecutive German governments to bury the project, Washington is preparing to enact sanctions against the pipeline,” Pancevski wrote.

He quoted a US security official as saying that President Donald Trump saw Nord Stream 2 as incompatible with the military shield America maintains over Europe. The official said Trump’s thinking could be summed up in the following way, according to Pancevski: “If you want us to protect you from the beast, why are you feeding it?”

Nord Stream 2 sanctions would follow an amendment to existing measures against Russia, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which Congress adopted in mid-2017, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing several US officials it did not name.

The US State Department spokeswoman said in March last year that the US government opposed Nord Stream 2 as the project would undermine Europe’s energy security and stability.

Heather Nauert told a news conference at the time that companies engaged in the construction and financing of the pipeline “could expose themselves to sanctions” under a US federal law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

The US House of Representatives in December passed a non-binding resolution voicing opposition to the new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, an energy project that is opposed by Poland.

The bipartisan bill described the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline as a “drastic step backwards for European energy security and United States interests.”

The 1,200-kilometre Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is scheduled for completion in 2019, is expected to supply around 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine.

US President Donald Trump in July last year hit out at Germany for supporting the construction of Nord Stream 2, despite opposition from some other European countries, including Poland.

A US diplomat was in December cited as saying that Russia was seeking to increase its power in Europe and its grip over Ukraine with the new gas pipeline to Germany.

The pipeline, which aims to bring Russian gas to Western Europe via the Baltic Sea, has been opposed by both Trump, a Republican, and his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama as a political tool for Russia to boost its power over Europe, the Reuters news agency has reported.

If Nord Stream 2 is completed, Ukraine could lose billions of dollars in transit charges, Reuters said.

A commentator for a German newspaper has warned that the contested gas link to Western Europe is not a business project, but a Russian “weapon against Ukraine.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in May that Nord Stream 2 was “a new hybrid weapon” aimed at the European Union and NATO.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said in October that the construction of the pipeline despite a lack of approval from all EU members showed a lack of solidarity within the bloc.

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