09:15 GMT23 January 2021
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    Shortly before the Russian-European pipeline intended to deliver gas to the EU under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine, is expected to be ready, the US is planning to step up pressure on the venture. Sanctions targeting the project have been included in the military budget bill, which is slated to be signed by the US president before Christmas.

    The German government is preparing for US sanctions against the Russian-European pipeline project Nord Stream 2, the German outlet Bild reports, citing a confidential paper from the country’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

    According to the document, the German government does not rule out that the sanctions, expected to be approved this December, “will hinder pipe-laying work in the Danish exclusive economic zone" in the Baltic Sea, which is underway now.

    The outlet points out that unlike the German Foreign Ministry, this document concludes that the US is not planning to impose any sanctions against Germany or any direct sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, owned by the Gazprom Group, which is the controlling shareholder, and four European companies - Wintershall Dea GmbH, PEG Infrastruktur AG, N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie, and Engie. The confidential paper reportedly states: "Western investors and the Nord Stream 2 consortium itself are not the focus of the announced sanctions".

    Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas earlier lambasted any possible punitive measures, targeting the venture.

    "Decisions on European Energy Policy are taken in Europe. We reject foreign interference and, as matter of principle, extraterritorial sanctions", he said.

    Who Is Under Threat?

    According to Bild, the Swiss-Dutch company Allseas, which is laying the remaining pipes for the venture, is specifically under threat. As the aforementioned document notes, the US is planning sanctions against the company that stipulate freezing its accounts and imposing an entry ban on its employees, preventing them from entering the US. At the same time, the work planned to be done in German waters (about 30 kilometres) is "not affected by the sanctions introduced by the bill because of the shallow depth".

    However, the consequences for the project are still unclear, as the German government is said to be planning a "careful examination of the effect the bill will have on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 project" after US President Donald Trump signs it. Berlin is also said to be counting on the chance that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may still be completed within the 30-day period suggested by the bill for parties to “shut down” the work without facing penalties.

    The operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Nord Stream 2 AG, has declined to speculate on the completion date.

    "No comment. We do not intend to speculate on this topic", it told Sputnik, adding that it plans “to complete the Nord Stream 2 project within a few months".

    ‘Last Call’ Sanctions

    The US Senate has approved the country’s military budget bill for the next year, the National Defence Authorisation Act 2020, in which the punitive measures have been included, today. It will eventually be signed by Trump by 20 December 2019, meaning that the sanctions could come into force already this week.

    Russia’s Gazprom had planned to start pumping natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea by the end of the year, but the project is reportedly behind schedule because difficulties in obtaining a permit from Denmark delayed the project. This could entail possible hurdles due to the US sanctions.

    Nord Stream 2's annual design capacity amounts to 55 billion cubic metres of gas. Together, Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 will deliver 110 billion cubic metres of Russian hydrocarbons a year to Europe, making Germany an important energy hub. Although Washington has repeatedly threatened to subject German participants in the endeavour to sanctions, Berlin has continued to proceed with the project.


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    sanctions, gas pipeline, Baltic Sea, Nord Stream 2, Germany, United States
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