Financial Times (UK): US to escalate threats on the “Nord stream — 2”

“Nord stream — 2”, in which the gas goes to Germany and Central Europe, builds a company owned by Gazprom. However, half of the funding is provided by five European energy groups Shell, Uniper, OMV, Wintershall and Engie.

“This is a clear warning to all companies: support to Russian projects with adverse impact is unacceptable, said on Wednesday the US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo. — Get out of there or else.”

This problem has soured relations between Washington and Berlin: Germany accuses US of meddling in its energy policy. But the administration trump, with the support of both parties in Congress, argues that repressive measures are necessary to deter Russia.

Two years ago Congress passed a law on combating the enemies of America through sanctions to prevent Russia to build the pipeline. Then the state Department said that the loans and investments made before this date will be exempt from sanctions. Pompeo on Wednesday announced that the administration trump these protections takes.

“Let’s be honest, this is not a commercial project, he said. Is the key tools of the Kremlin to use harmful European dependence on Russian energy and, ultimately, to undermine transatlantic security.”

Amid this step, the Congress is preparing to debate the annual defense bill, which includes additional measures to disrupt the pipeline.

Ted Cruz (Ted Cruz), the Republican Senator from Texas and one of the main supporters of those measures, stated that the state Department’s actions “confirm once again that the US government, there is bipartisan, bicameral, mezhotraslevye consensus that the pipeline should not earn Putin”.

Cruz said that the Congress is taking additional measures to expand the range of sanctions associated with the “Northern stream — 2”.

Although the administration and the Congress are United in the desire to put pressure on Russia, the White house to legally binding measures legislators wary.

Specialist sanctions the Julia Friedlander (Friedlander Julia), recently retired from the U.S. Treasury, said that, sending a sharp signal to the companies participating in the project, the state Department tried to prevent harsher action from Congress. However, she noted that this move will only slow down the construction of the pipeline and almost no chance to win it completely.

“In fact, you will only drive a wedge between the allies due to the fact that one way or another will happen and will bring victory to Russia”, said Friedlander, now a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In Moscow the American threat called the attempt of political pressure against the interests of Russian business. Earlier, Russia promised to retaliate against any new U.S. sanctions, but Gazprom has stated that it intends to complete the construction of the “Nord stream — 2” independently, if the US will force its partners to abandon the project.

“This is political pressure for the purpose of unfair competition, an indicator of the weakness of the American system,” — said the representative of the Russian foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova.

Moscow has consistently assures that the pipeline is a commercial project and that the US is trying to interfere with their construction in order to promote Europe’s own exports of liquefied natural gas as an alternative source.

The construction of a pipeline under the Baltic sea was suspended last year. After the Swiss company Allseas left the project, fearing American sanctions, has not been completed and site 120 km away. Since then, Gazprom has sent to Germany the ship-pipelayer, and last week the Danish government gave the company permission to resume operations.

Expert on Russia at the Center for strategic and international studies Heather Conley (Conley Heather) considers the actions of the US attempt to increase the pressure after previous attempts only slowed down the project.

“They expected that the Danes will slow down the situation and impose sanctions to force the contractors to leave, she said. Now they quickly figure out how to make the punishment more painful and slow down the project even stronger.”

One person familiar with the work of the state Department, explained that sanctions will threaten any company that helps construction — for example, those who runs [fuel] Russian ship. Banks that transfer money on behalf of the participating organizations are at risk too.

The part that remains to finish is in Danish territorial waters. “Nord stream — 2” had to inquire of Copenhagen permission to use the ships booms Gazprom.

Energy Agency of Denmark last Monday said the agreement, essentially giving the green light to resume construction.

According to analysts, the use of outdated in terms of technology pipelayers means for the laying of the last remaining section may take about three months. Austrian energy group OMV has reacted to the statement Pompeo as: “we Have public leaders, and we will analyze it”.

CEO Rainer Seele (Rainer Seele), German born, previously said that his opposition to the construction of the pipeline Washington “dictates” of Europe’s energy policy.

Shell declined to comment. Wintershall, Engie and Uniper requests are not responded.