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 senior US government official.
“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 new threats sparked outrage in German business and politics. “Such an approach is completely out of the question among the alliance partners,” said the chairman of the East German Business Committee, Oliver Hermes, of the dpa. “We call on the outgoing administration in Washington to respect European sovereignty and again to cooperate comprehensively with the German and European authorities.”
The vice chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Achim Post, spoke of “hard work”. The chairman of the Bundestag’s economic committee, Klaus Ernst, put it more drastically: “If the United States does not abandon these mafia methods, Europe must take countermeasures, such as imposing punitive tariffs on American gas or imposing sanctions on people who extort money of protection. They stand out particularly, ”said the left-wing politician.
In the future, 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas will be pumped from Russia to Germany each year through the two Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, each about 1200 kilometers long. The gas pipeline, which costs around 9.5 billion euros, is 94 percent ready. The United States has been rebelling against this for years because it considers its European partners to be too dependent on Russian gas. They have the support of Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Baltic countries. Critics accuse the United States, on the other hand, of just wanting to better sell its liquefied gas in Europe.
In December 2019, construction works on the Danish island of Bornholm came to an abrupt halt because the two Swiss laying vessels had ceased their work under pressure from US sanctions. The United States Congress had previously passed the “Act to Protect Europe’s Energy Security” (Peesa) with bipartisan support, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, put it into effect despite strong criticism from Germany and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin later 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 fishing vessel “Akademik Tscherski” has been in the port of Mukran on Rügen for some time. However, nothing has happened at the construction site of the gas pipeline off Bornholm for almost a year.
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 usurpation of European sovereignty, according to a statement from Uniper. Upon request, Wintershall Dea said: “We have not received any warning from the US government.”
According to the Eastern Committee, the US government has been trying to pressure European companies and threaten them with sanctions through its embassies in the European Union since the summer. In August, several US senators wrote to the port of Sassnitz-Mukran threatening punitive measures.
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.
As part of the 2021 Defense Budget package (NDAA), another law (Peesca) is expected to be passed soon to toughen sanctions. In accordance with this, companies that provide boats for other activities related to placement work should also be penalized. 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.
In Berlin, Trump’s next replacement for Democrat Joe Biden in the White House is now expected to bring a turning point. The Eastern Committee is already pushing for this and last week wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and several other prominent Democrats. In it, the association urgently requests that the new sanctions law be halted “in order to restart transatlantic cooperation.”
The representative of the United States government, however, extinguished those hopes. 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 election winner, Biden, will be sworn in on January 20. In his previous role as vice president of the United States under Barack Obama, he called the pipeline “a fundamentally bad business for Europe.”