Both conservative and left-wing German politicians have unanimously lambasted US Ambassador Richard Grenell over his warning letters to the companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project and called on the country’s government to react.
The deputy chairman of the left-wing Die Linke fraction in the German Bundestag, Fabio De Masi, has called on the government to confront Grenell, pointing out that extraterritorial sanctions against German companies contradict international law.
"The US ambassador has apparently gained the impression that he is the governor of the emperor from Washington in Germany", he said on Sunday.
Juergen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrat Union/Christian Social Union’s Bundestag group branded Grenell’s threats to German companies as "a new and unacceptable one-sided aggravation of the tone in the transatlantic relationship" and called on the CDU-formed government to protest.
The deputy leader of the Social Democrats, Ralf Stegner, also joined the choir of outraged politicians with his remark on Twitter.
"Does Mr Grenell know that the time of the High Commissioners in Germany is over?" he posted referring to the post-war period after Germany was freed from the Nazi regime and was governed by the Allies.
Ob Mister Grenell weiß, dass die Zeit der Hohen Kommissare in Deutschland vorbei ist? https://t.co/GUEdxY661T— Ralf Stegner (@Ralf_Stegner) 13 января 2019 г.
Meanwhile, German diplomats remain at loss, thinking over a proper response to his offensive letter, the magazine Der Spiegel reports. Possible variants range from formally summoning the ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to lodge a protest to not responding at all. According to the outlet, the MFA and Federal Chancellery want to discuss the matter again on January 14. Handelsblatt reports, the Foreign Ministry advised companies that received the black mark and requested diplomats’ opinion on the matter, not to answer.
The backlash followed the German newspaper Bild on Sunday’s report that Grenell had sent warning letters to German companies over their participation in the Russian-European project Nord Stream 2, which was probably coordinated with the US authorities.
In the letter, printed on what appears to be the US Embassy’s letterhead and published by Der Spiegel, the ambassador shared Washington's concerns over the project, which “poses serious geostrategic consequences” to the US's European allies. He refrained from commenting on “specific future sanction actions”, but requested that the companies consider the danger to European energy security, which is how the US views the project, and “the reputational costs and sanctions risk". Meanwhile, the embassy's press service has insisted that it was not a threat but a clear message about US policy.
Although Russia and Germany have repeatedly fought off any allegations about Nord Stream 2’s political underpinning, the US along with Ukraine, set to be bypassed by the new pipeline, has been strongly opposing the project. With regard to this, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that US President Donald Trump was pursuing the interests of US businesses to deliver liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe.
Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture of Russian gas giant Gazprom and five European companies. It aims to deliver 55 billion cubic metres (1.9 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to the European Union via the Baltic Sea and Germany.