Washington (AP) – The US government sees the German-Russian Baltic Sea Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the last meters before the end and increases the pressure of sanctions on the European companies involved.
“This pipeline is not being carried out,” said a high-ranking US government representative from the dpa news agency in Washington. “This is what a dying pipe looks like.” The government has identified a number of companies and individuals facing initial sanctions under the Nord Stream 2 Sanctions Act.
Those affected are being contacted and informed about the imminent sanctions. “The United States does not want to have to impose sanctions on European companies. We make these calls to warn them and give them time to get out, ”said the government official. The handling of activities related to Nord Stream 2 is not subject to penalties.
“Instead of investing more money in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and related activities, it would be better for the companies to use force majeure clauses to reverse their stake in Nord Stream 2,” the government official said. He did not provide any information on the companies that would be specifically contacted. He called Nord Stream 2 “a geopolitical project that Russia will use to blackmail European countries.”
The United States argues that Germany would depend on Moscow for the pipeline. Last December, the US Congress passed the “Act to protect Europe’s energy security” (Peesa) with the support of all parties. Despite strong criticism from Germany and Russia, US President Donald Trump put the law into effect on December 20. The sanctions were aimed at the operating companies of the special vessels that laid the pipeline pipes.
Peesa initially halted construction. The Swiss company Allseas, which had installed pipelines in the Baltic Sea with special ships, stopped working late last year due to impending US sanctions. According to the Nord Stream 2 consortium of operators, 2,300 of the 2,460-kilometer gas pipeline from Russia to Germany had already been laid.
The US government official said the cost of the delay meant that the consortium of operators now faced a choice “between going to Moscow for a bailout or asking creditors for additional money, and in recent months we have had commitments from current creditors received that there will be no additional or new financing ». A Nord Stream 2 spokesperson said shareholders and the five financial investors, as well as suppliers, are in the project. Currently, the costs of delays and threats of sanctions are not quantifiable.
In Nord Stream 2 AG, based in Zug, Switzerland, the Russian company Gazprom is formally the sole shareholder. In addition, there are the German groups Wintershall Dea, a joint venture between BASF and LetterOne, and Uniper (a spin-off of Eon), as well as the Dutch-British Shell, Engie (formerly GDF Suez) of France and OMV of Austria. The chairman of the supervisory board of Nord Stream is former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), in Nord Stream 2 he is chairman of the board of directors.
Uniper noted “with regret that the United States continues to attempt to undermine a major infrastructure project with Nord Stream 2 that we believe is necessary for Europe’s energy security.” This is a clear interference in European sovereignty. “Germany has reaffirmed its political support for Nord Stream 2 in view of its role in security of supply,” says a statement from Uniper.
Upon request, Wintershall Dea said: “We have not received any warning from the US government.” The four European partners have committed to finance half of the total costs estimated at 9.5 billion euros in the long term. For each company that amounts to 950 million euros. “Wintershall Dea had paid 730 million euros in April 2020,” he said.
After the US sanctions were imposed, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would complete the work independently, regardless of foreign partners. The consortium of operators had also emphasized that they wanted to complete the pipeline. The Russian ship “Akademik Tscherski” was supposed to complete the project.
In October, the US State Department published new guidelines, according to which the provision of certain services and facilities for laying vessels could also be sanctioned. The US government official said a first government report would be presented to Congress in the next few days or weeks. It would name people and companies that potentially violate the law.
So far, no sanctions have been imposed under Peesa. Several US senators wrote in a letter in August threatening the German Baltic port of Sassnitz-Mukran with sanctions. According to the website marinetraffic.com, the “Akademik Tscherski” is located there.
As part of the 2021 Defense Budget package (NDAA), a law will be passed to toughen penalties. According to this law (Peesca), companies that supply boats for other activities related to laying works will also be sanctioned. This could include trenching the pipe.
The companies that insure the affected ships or make their port facilities available to them are also threatened with sanctions. The same is true of the companies that certify the pipeline so that it can become operational.
After the sanctions that have already been imposed, but also after the sanctions provided, the affected persons can be barred from entering the United States. Any data subject or company property in the United States can be frozen.
The US government official stressed that supporters of Nord Stream 2 should not be hopeful of a change of government in Washington. He noted that both Peesa and Peesca receive bipartisan support and provide for mandatory sanctions. “This means that sanctions are implemented regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.”
The new president of the United States will be sworn in on January 20. After the November 3 election, Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner. Trump has so far refused to admit defeat. Trump is a staunch opponent of Nord Stream 2. Biden is also critical of the project. In his previous role as vice president of the United States under Barack Obama, Biden called the pipeline “a fundamentally bad business for Europe.”
Regardless of Congress, the US government extended the Caatsa sanctions law (“Countering America’s adversaries through sanctions”) to Nord Stream 2 last July. It allows the president of the United States, “in coordination with the allies of the United States,” to impose sanctions on individuals or companies that invest in Russian pipelines or contribute to their construction, modernization or repair. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the time of a clear warning to companies that aided in projects that expanded Russia’s “malicious influence.”