26 Jul, 2020
The US government has made further attempts to force European firms to ditch the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Welt am Sonntag reported, citing people familiar with talks on the issue.
According to the newspaper, officials from US Department of State, the Treasury Department, as well as the Department of Energy approached European contractors to make sure they fully understand the consequences of staying in the project. Up to a dozen officials reportedly held at least two online conferences with representatives of the firms in recent days.
Speaking in a “friendly” manner, the US side stressed that it wanted to prevent completion of Nord Stream 2, observers of the online talks said. “I believe the threat is very, very serious,” one of them revealed to the German outlet.
Those threats are consistent with comments by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week, in which he warned that companies involved in the project had better “get out now” or risk facing penalties under Section 232 of the notorious Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Apart from Russia’s energy major Gazprom, which is developing the project, five European companies have joined. Those are France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV, the UK-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, as well as Wintershall and Germany’s Uniper.
Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, the latter called US attempts to undermine the “important infrastructure project” a clear intervention into European sovereignty.
Earlier this week, the US House of Representatives approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, meant to expand US sanctions on companies involved in installing Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. According to one of the sponsors of the bill, the measures can target companies facilitating or providing vessels, insurance, port facilities, or tethering services for those vessels, as well as to those providing certification for Nord Stream 2.
Both European businesses and government officials have repeatedly decried US attempts to meddle in European energy policy by sanctioning Nord Stream 2, with some even calling on Brussels to work on countermeasures.
Moscow has also lambasted Washington’s move, calling it unfair competition. Earlier this week, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will develop a new strategy for completion of the project if Washington proceeds with new punitive measures.