US gets tough on Nord Stream pipeline

US gets tough on Nord Stream pipeline

Washington has increased its opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany, saying the project raises military concerns and that it could lead to US trade sanctions.

A group of western companies and Russia’s gas giant Gazprom said this week it was starting preparatory work off Germany’s Baltic coast. 

US opposition to the pipeline centres around claims it will increase European reliance on Russian gas supplies. 

The US comments came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Sochi in southern Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to break the Iran nuclear agreement. Nord Stream 2 was also on the agenda.

Germany’s parliamentary envoy to Russia, Dirk Wiese, said Merkel would look for “islands of cooperation” with the Russian president, including a continued commitment to the Iran deal, despite differences over Ukraine and EU sanctions.

US military chiefs also say they fear Nord Stream 2 could enable Russia to install surveillance equipment under the militarily congested Baltic Sea. 

The US warnings come as the European Union trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal that has been left floundering by Trump’s decision to withdraw. 

Any US action over to the Baltic pipeline could affect companies in Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Royal Dutch Shell, BASF’s Wintershall unit, Uniper, OMV and Engie have all provided Russia’s de facto gas export monopoly Gazprom with financial backing for the project.

Sandra Oudkirk, US energy diplomacy chief, told the media in Berlin, that August 2017 legislation, passed in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its alleged US election interference in 2016, gave Washington the authority to act against any Russian energy projects, including Nord Stream 2.

“That means that any pipeline project, and there are multiple pipeline projects in the world that are potentially covered, is at an elevated sanctions risk,” Oudkirk said.

It would perpetuate “vulnerabilities” in Russian-European ties for 30 to 40 years, the envoy added. 

Washington also opposed the TurkStream pipeline that had been laid under the Black Sea and would now run through Turkey to the Balkans for the same reasons, she said.

Oudkirk said the Baltic Sea was a militarily sensitive area. “When we look at the ability of governments and companies to use infrastructure deployments as a means to convey devices and technologies that can listen and follow and monitor, that is a concern with regard to this particular undersea pipeline project in the Baltic Sea,” the envoy added. 



Gazprom has two gas pipelines heading towards Europe. Picture credit: YouTube 


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