Washington might slap sanctions on two European contractors that are laying the pipeline for the Nord Stream 2 project, German newspaper Handelsblatt has reported.
Sources in the German federal government told Handelsblatt that the White House would primarily levy sanctions on the highly specialised companies laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on behalf of the operating company, Nord Stream 2 AG. These two contractors are Swiss-based Allseas Group and Italian-based Saipem.
A spokesperson from Allseas, which is set to lay over 90 percent of the pipeline, was quoted as refusing to speculate about the possible impact of US sanctions. Saipem did not respond to a request for comment but industry sources, as per the report, called sanctions against the Italian firm "pointless" as it has already completed its part of the work.
US President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of Nord Stream 2; he earlier said that it was "unfortunate" for Germans but vowed not to go hard on investors in the pipeline. However, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, Trump's close ally, delivered a more ominous message.
He told Handelsblatt that companies participating in the construction are "always in danger, because sanctions are always possible"; he is also convinced that looming sanctions would force these companies pull out of the project all by themselves.
The Trump administration has long opposed Nord Stream 2; it said that the Gazprom-led venture, which is set to divert gas flows away from Ukraine to Germany through the Baltic Sea, poses a threat to European energy security and could be used by Russia to obtain economic and political leverage. Donald Trump has called on European countries that support the project to scrap it in favour of American liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Both Moscow and Berlin have dismissed the allegations, saying that Nord Stream 2 is a purely economic project. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov slammed the US claims as a "camouflaged dishonest competition". The European Commission said that it did not support the venture but refused to prohibit it.