US Ambassador Richard Grenell’s letter to German companies, threatening them with "a significant risk of sanctions" over their involvement in the Nord Stream 2 has puzzled the country’s Foreign Ministry, the newspaper Bild reports. This move does not reportedly adhere to diplomatic practices. However, an official statement on the matter has not been made yet.
Local firms involved in the project to build a gas pipeline from Russia to Europe that will divert gas flows away from Ukraine to Germany through the Baltic Sea, reportedly received the letters, picturing a grim future for them if they didn’t leave the project.
"We emphasize that companies involved in Russian energy exports are taking part in something that could prompt a significant risk of sanctions", the message reads, as cited by the paper.
He accused these companies of impacting European energy security, as the US has persistently tried to sway Germany and other stakeholders away from this venture.
"As a result, firms supporting the construction of both pipelines are actively undermining the security of Ukraine and Europe”, the letter said.
He also supported the European Parliament resolution, condemning the project.
The US supports the European Parliament position on Nord Stream 2. A stronger Europe benefits all of us. https://t.co/M0mYIT7miO— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) 13 января 2019 г.
However, the US Embassy in Berlin defended the letters, saying: "The letter should not be seen as a threat, but as a clear message of US policy".
It’s not the first time, Grenell has warned German businesses against cooperating with Russia. Earlier this year he told German newspaper Handelsblatt that firms participating in the construction are "always in danger because sanctions are always possible"; he also expressed his belief that looming sanctions would force these companies to voluntarily pull out of the project. This statement came amid reports 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.
In his vigorous criticism, Grenell echoed US President Donald Trump who has previously slammed Nord Stream 2 as "unfortunate" for Germans but vowed not to be hard on investors in the pipeline.
In their profile on Grenell, the German magazine Der Spiegel recently stated that his portrait, based on the comments of more than 30 sources, is “remarkably similar to Donald Trump”. The magazine says, “Grenell knows little about Germany and Europe”, but also points out that from the very beginning he has been very outspoken about both European foreign and domestic affairs, and even earned the moniker “colonial officer” from former leader of the Social Democrats Martin Schulz.
According to their assumption, “he has largely become isolated in Berlin”. Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps him “at a distance” in contrast to some of his predecessors, while several prominent politicians keep contact with him to a minimum, although he is reported to have built up connections with one of Merkel’s most outspoken critics Jens Spahn, the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, and the conservatives from the Christian Democratic Union’s Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union.