Sputnik: Germany rejects any extraterritorial sanctions amid US threats against Nord Stream-2. Can we consider this claim as Germany’s desire for greater independence from the United States in making political decisions? What are the reasons for this decision?
Joachim Paul: Decisions in European energy policy have to follow European interests. The USA has tried to influence European policies on several occasions during the last years. For example, they threatened several countries that considered using Huawei-parts in their 5G-networks with sanctions. In fact, the reliability of Huawei in the case of security and espionage is questionable. But sometimes there is only a thin line between necessary dialogue about interests and patronization. Russia has become an important partner for Germany and the whole of Europe, especially in energy policy issues. Europe strongly depends on gas-imports, a deal with Russia is just reasonable.
Sputnik: What steps should be expected from the United States in response to Germany’s decision, given the US sanctions against Nord Stream-2 that were recently added to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which is up for approval before Christmas?
Joachim Paul: The US House and Senate on Monday (9 December) agreed on a defence bill that would force Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on companies involved in the Russian-sponsored gas pipelines Nord Stream-2 and Turkish Stream. I think that it is safe to say that the sanctions will be introduced shortly. The sanctions will most likely target companies involved in the building of Nord Stream-2.
Sputnik: In terms of political confrontation, how likely is it that the US sanctions threat against “Nord Stream-2” will spill over into the tariff war?
Joachim Paul: The USA raised tariffs on French cheese and wine after the French Parliament introduced a digital service tax, targeting Google, Apple and Facebook. Keeping this in mind, it is even likely that the USA will impose tariffs on other German products. I think that a digital service tax is necessary. US-tech-companies are making huge profits in European markets. It is about time to discuss if taxation which relies on rather old tax laws is still just and fair. It remains to be seen how Germany reacts to this action. If Germany decides to introduce tariffs on US products as a countermeasure it could probably end in a tariff war.
Sputnik: In your opinion, could US sanctions against Germany lead to the European Union moving towards political estrangement from the USA?
Joachim Paul: On the one hand we think that the European-American relation has cooled a bit during the last years. But that has merely to do with the strong anti-Trump rhetoric of the Merkel administration. Days ago a survey made clear that US companies are a bit more reluctant to invest in Germany right now, especially in my state, Rhineland-Palatinate. But that has to do with the digital infrastructure, which is not on a technical level appropriate for a western industrial nation. In general, treating Europe as an equal partner also means taking Europe more seriously. This includes respecting European policies, especially concerning energy policy.
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