10:34 GMT02 July 2020
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    The world's most politically charged pipeline, Nord Stream 2, could be in jeopardy after the United States threatened to slap sanctions on German firms involved in its construction. Russia insists the project is purely economic, adding that US threats are an attempt to force the EU to buy American liquefied natural gas (LNG) instead.

    The United States is increasing pressure on EU member states, especially Germany, to halt the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Handelsblatt reports.

    "The time to act is now," an unnamed senior White House official told the German newspaper, saying that Brussels must intervene before Russia gains tremendous influence over Europe. 

    The civil servant warned that the project would play into the hands of Moscow by limiting Europe's room to manoeuvre vis-à-vis Russia, reaffirming that Washington doesn't want the venture to go ahead. 

    The official also reiterated the US' demand that the EU take measures to ensure its own energy security, in addition to securing continuous gas flows to Ukraine.

    READ MORE: Sanctions Coming? EU Gas Giants Weigh Nord Stream 2 Risks & Benefits – Scholars

    CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in December, said it would be "too radical" to withdraw from Nord Stream 2, but proposed to reduce the amount of gas transported via the pipeline after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels that violated its maritime border.

    The US government welcomes such considerations, the source said, warning, however, that it would be difficult to hold Russia accountable retroactively once the pipeline is built.

    Earlier this month, German politicians voiced their outrage over a leaked letter that US Ambassador to Germany,Richard Grenell allegedly sent out to local companies to scare them away from Nord Stream 2. In the letter, published by Der Spiegel, the envoy warned the companies of "specific future sanction actions". Handelsblatt's source admitted the leaked letter was "not intended for the public".

    Washington has criticised Nord Stream 2 over its potential economic and geopolitical implications. Moscow and Germany have repeatedly shrugged off accusations that the Gazprom-led project, which aims to deliver 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas annually to the EU across the Baltic Sea bypassing Ukraine, is a political tool.

    Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, described US pressure on the EU in regards to the pipeline as an attempt to turn the bloc away from the supplies of Russian gas and lure it towards American liquefied natural gas (LNG).


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