01 Jan 2020
German politicians have called on Europe to adopt protective measures against U.S. sanctions after Washington managed to halt completion of a new submarine gas pipeline linking Russia directly to Germany.
The bipartisan U.S. move initiated by Congress last week threatened sanctions against companies working on completing Nord Stream 2, Europe’s biggest energy-infrastructure project, which the U.S. and some European countries fear could give Russia some control over the continent’s energy supplies and boost revenues for an increasingly belligerent Kremlin.
The move prompted Swiss pipe-laying company Allseas Group S.A. to stop work on the $10 billion pipeline, just weeks from completion. The pipe would double direct gas shipments to Germany by Russian’s state-owned gas giant PAO Gazprom.
Despite announcement of the stoppage, Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told a state-owned press agency on Thursday that only 160 km, or the underwater part of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, remained to be completed, work that would be finished within months by using Russian ships. Russian state media reported that Gazprom’s pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy, currently in the far east, would be brought to the Baltic to complete the pipeline.
The U.S.’s move sparked outrage in Germany, prompting senior officials and politicians to call for a coordinated approach to protect the strategic interests of European Union members against future U.S. sanctions.“Europe needs new instruments to be able to defend itself from licentious extraterritorial sanctions,” wrote Niels Annen, Germany’s deputy foreign minister, in a tweet last week.
The dispute adds to strain in the western alliance since the Trump administration adopted a series of foreign-policy moves, including troop withdrawals, trade tariffs and the withdrawal from certain international agreements, without consulting with allies.
Some German officials say that fortifying Europe’s defenses against U.S. sanctions could require closer cooperation with Russia and China at a time when President Trump is pressuring EU allies to side with Washington in its trade, technology and geopolitical disputes with Beijing.
By Bojan Pancevski and Laurence Norman, The Wall Street Journal, 27 December 2019
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