Trump signs law imposing sanctions on gas pipeline to link Russia and Germany

At the Nord Stream 2 construction site in Lubmin, in northeastern Germany, March 26, 2019.
On the Nord Stream 2 construction site, in Lubmin, in the northeast of Germany, on March 26, 2019. TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The European Union, led by Berlin, as well as Moscow, strongly criticized on Saturday the American sanctions taken the day before against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, at the heart of an economic and geopolitical battle between Washington and Brussels. These sanctions came when the United States and certain European countries – Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries – fear that this project will increase the dependence of Europeans on Russian gas and strengthen the influence from Moscow.

American measures "Affect German and European companies and constitute interference in our internal affairs"reacted Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The European Union, for its part, strongly denounces the interference of the United States in its energy policy. "In principle, the European Union opposes the imposition of sanctions against European companies engaged in legal activities"said an EU spokesperson on Saturday.

Moscow, for its part, has made it clear that it will carry out this project despite the announced sanctions. Russian diplomacy spokeswoman on Saturday denounced sanctions that prevent other countries from "Develop their economy". "A state with a public debt of 22 trillion dollars forbids solvent countries to develop their real economy"said Maria Zakharova on her Facebook page, denouncing "American ideology (who) can't stand global competition ".

The gas pipeline, which is almost completed, passes under the Baltic Sea, notably bypassing Ukraine. It is expected to double direct deliveries of Russian natural gas to Western Europe via Germany, the main beneficiary of the project.

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Allseas company suspends its work

These sanctions, which are part of a large US defense budget law for the 2020 fiscal year, include the freezing of assets and the revocation of US visas for pipeline contractors. The US State Department must now communicate the names of the companies and people concerned within sixty days.

One of the main targets is Allseas, a Swiss company that owns the world’s largest pipelaying vessel, the Pioneering Spirit, hired by Russia’s Gazprom to build the offshore section. In the immediate future, Allseas announced in a press release the suspension of its work to install the gas pipeline. The company says it is now waiting "Regulatory, technical and environmental clarifications from the competent American authorities".

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The pipeline represents an investment of ten billion euros, financed half by Gazprom and the other half by five European companies (OMV, Wintershall Dea, Engie, Uniper and Shell).

Since its inception, many obstacles have stood in the way of this project. Nord Stream 2 only obtained the green light from Denmark at the end of October to cross its waters, which is likely to delay its entry into service, initially scheduled for late 2019.


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