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Jul 31, 2020
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“We do not allow America’s interference”: why Germany opposes US sanctions on Nord Stream 2

The Free Democratic Party faction in the Bundestag sent a protest to US congressmen in connection with the US plans to impose new sanctions against Nord Stream 2. German lawmakers consider Washington's attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Europe as an unacceptable practice. European companies also protested against American pressure: business calls on the EU authorities to give a political response to the actions of the United States. However, experts believe that the American side, interested in eliminating competition in the European market, will ignore the indignation of European politicians and businessmen.

German lawmakers sent a letter to their colleagues from the upper house of the US Congress, in which they protested the plans of the American side to impose new sanctions against the Russian-German project of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The message addressed to the American senators Ted Cruz and Jeanne Sheikhin was sent by the Free Democratic Party (FDP, Freie Demokratische Partei) faction in the Bundestag.

Martin Neumann, an official representative of the faction on energy issues, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti about this.

“The position of colleagues in the FDP parliamentary faction is clear: we do not allow America to interfere in European affairs,” he stressed.

According to the parliamentarians, by its actions Washington exerts "a significant influence on the investment, planning and legal security of Germany and the EU."

As Neumann noted, this is a "clear interference in the sovereign affairs of the European Union," especially if we take into account the fact that the laying of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was approved by pan-European institutions in accordance with all the rules of the European Union.

Political response

Earlier, a similar point of view was expressed by representatives of European companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project. According to the publication of the German edition Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, European companies are unhappy with the lack of political support for the project from the authorities.

In turn, the head of the Austrian energy company OMV Rainer Seele said that ultimately it is about how Europe is able to defend its sovereignty and independence in the energy field. According to Seele, Washington's political initiative needs a political response, which is beyond the competence of companies.

  • Reuters
  • © Tobias BLACK

“As a European company, we expect politicians to stand up so that Europe as an investment object does not lose its attractiveness,” he stressed.

The OMV chief also noted that the US sanctions go far beyond the gas pipeline project. The penalties threatened by the Trump administration and supported even by Democratic senators who are in opposition to the head of the White House are increasingly questioning investment security in Europe as a whole, the company said.

The management of the German energy concern Uniper adheres to a similar point of view. As the company noted "with regret", "America continues to try to undermine an important infrastructure project" that is "important for Europe's energy security."

However, experts interviewed by RT doubt that the appeal of German parliamentarians from the FDP faction will be heard and taken into account in Washington.

“For the United States, sanctions are a tool of unfair competition and economic influence, and the Americans are not going to deprive themselves of it. I think that such appeals from German politicians will only provoke their American colleagues more. But the continuation of pressure tactics may lead to the fact that Euro-Atlantic unity will simply crack, crumble, "said Alexey Mukhin, general director of the Center for Political Information, in a commentary on RT.

Aleksey Grivach, Deputy Director General for Gas Problems of the National Energy Security Fund, shares a similar point of view.

“It is unlikely that Congress will listen to this appeal. Rather, such statements serve the internal political positioning of the FDP. But the German and the European establishment in general are really seriously concerned about the pressure from the United States. And they are trying to find ways to respond, "the expert said in an interview with RT.

According to Grivach, European business is right when it says that sanctions undermine the competitiveness of the European economy and make the gas market less liquid.

“Not to mention having a reputation for protecting EU investments. It turns out that now the fate of these investments is decided not by Europe, but by a third party, ”the expert emphasized.

US sanctions

As a reminder, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should complement the previously commissioned Nord Stream pipeline. The decision to build a new branch of the trans-Baltic gas pipeline was made in 2012 by the shareholders of the Nord Stream, which was already operating at that time.

The total capacity of Nord Stream 2 will be 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. As a result, 110 billion cubic meters of gas will be supplied to Europe annually along with Nord Stream along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The project involves the European companies ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper and Wintershall, as well as the Russian Gazprom. Nord Stream 2 AG was founded specifically for the design and construction of the gas pipeline.

  • Gas liquefaction plant in the Sakhalin-2 project
  • Reuters
  • © Sergey Karpukhin

However, with the deterioration of Russian-American relations and the expansion of American energy companies into the world liquefied natural gas market, Nord Stream 2 has become an object of attacks and pressure from the United States.

Over the past years, Washington has been urging Europe to cut back on energy cooperation with Moscow. According to the American authorities, the project allegedly threatens the energy security of European countries, since it will make them dependent on Russian fuel supplies.

In 2019, Washington imposed sanctions on European companies involved in the construction of the Russian-German gas pipeline. The restrictions were included in the defense budget adopted by the US government.

As a result, the Swiss company Allseas, which laid the subsea elements of the Nord Stream 2, closed its participation in the project. However, by that time, about 2,300 km of the pipeline had been laid out of about 2,460 km. Jens Müller, the official representative of Nord Stream 2 AG, told reporters about this.

Although the US sanctions created difficulties for the project participants, Washington was unable to disrupt the construction. As Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in January 2020, following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia can complete the remaining 160 km of the pipe on its own.

Experts have no doubt that the pipeline will be completed, despite the opposition from the United States to the project.

"Nord Stream 2" will be launched in any case, unless Europe gives up and renounces its sovereignty, "said Alexey Grivach.

At the same time, the American leadership continues to criticize Berlin for participating in the project. It was this question that became one of the reasons for the withdrawal of part of the American military contingent from the FRG. According to the head of the White House, Donald Trump, the United States does not agree to defend Germany from Russia, while the Germans spend "billions of dollars on the purchase of Russian energy resources."

The competition is more American

Now the American authorities are preparing new sanctions against Nord Stream 2. In July, the US House of Representatives approved the country's draft defense budget for fiscal 2021, which includes clauses that strengthen sanctions against Russian-German energy cooperation.

  • Donald Trump
  • Reuters
  • © Leah Millis

In addition, the US State Department has updated its recommendations under the CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions) law to include the Nord Stream 2 projects and the second string of the Turkish Stream. According to US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo, these pipelines are not commercial projects, but "tools of the Kremlin" for expanding European dependence on Russian energy resources.

According to experts, Washington is actively using non-market instruments in order to advance its interests.

“The actions of the American side are far from the rules of market competition. In fact, the United States completely ignores the principles, the keepers of which they declared themselves earlier, ”stressed Alexey Mukhin.

Alexey Grivach also agrees with this assessment.

“The USA is absolutely not market-based. A gas pipeline is just an infrastructure for the delivery of goods, gas. Blocking its construction will create an artificial shortage on the European market, which will strengthen the position of American LNG. That is, the United States is fighting against fair market competition, ”the expert explained.

These actions by Washington are destroying the political unity between the United States and Europe, analysts believe. According to Aleksey Grivach, the negative consequences are already noticeable.

“We can say that the United States provoked the first serious crisis in Euro-Atlantic cooperation in the last 30 years. Germany is the economic leader of the EU, and actions against it are reflected in the entire union, ”the expert concluded.

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