22:23 GMT07 August 2020
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    Washington moved to apply sanctions pressure against companies working on Nord Stream 2 in late December, prompting a Swiss pipelaying contractor to pull out of the project. Last month, a group of US lawmakers proposed expanding sanctions to include all companies engaged in the joint Russian-Western European energy project.

    The US State Department plans to include Nord Stream 2 and Turkstream in the list of projects to be sanctioned by Washington under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) legislation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced.

    "Today the Department of State is updating the public guidance for CAATSA authorities to include Nord Stream 2 and the second line of TurkStream 2. This action puts investments or other activities that are related to these Russian energy export pipelines at risk of US sanctions. It's a clear warning to companies aiding and abetting Russia's malign influence projects and will not be tolerated. Get out now or risk the consequences," Pompeo said, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday.

    Accusing Moscow of using these pipelines as key "Kremlin tools" to "exploit European dependence on Russian energy supplies," to undermine democracy and "transatlantic security," Pompeo promised that the US is "always ready to help our European friends meet their energy needs."

    Later, the State Department clarified that it would not be introducing sanctions against the pipelines immediately, but could do so in the future.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the new sanctions a form of "political pressure" aimed at "ensuring unfair competition" against Moscow. "This is an indicator of the weakness of the American system. Apart from strong-arm tactics, they do not have any other effective tools," she said.

    Sanctions Fixation

    Signed into law in 2017, CAATSA has been used against Russia, Iran and North Korea, targeting Russian individuals and entities in connection with the Russiagate investigation, as well as Russian exports of military equipment to China. Washington has also threatened to use the legislation against countries purchasing Russia's S-400 air defence systems, including Turkey and India.

    In December 2019, lawmakers added sanctions against Nord Stream 2 into the 2020 National Defence Authorization Act, prompting Switzerland-based pipelaying contractor Allseas to pull out of the project with just 160 km of the 1,230 km pipeline project left to be built. Russian gas giant Gazprom has promised to complete the project independently, deploying the Akademik Cherskiy pipelaying vessel to the Baltic Sea for this purpose.

    Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced new sanctions legislation targeting Nordstream 2, with the bill entitled the 'Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act.' Berlin suggested that the proposed new extraterritorial sanctions "conflict with international law," with US media reporting that Germany is mulling a coordinated European Union-wide response to challenge such sanctions. Klaus Ernst, the Left Party chairman of the Bundestag Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy, has called US sanctions pressure a threat to German sovereignty, and urged leaders to stop "babbling" and consider retaliatory measures, such as penalties on US gas imports.

    Russia and Turkey celebrated the launch of the 935 km TurkStream pipeline in January, with the pipeline delivering Russian gas through Turkey to customers in Southern and Southeastern Europe via the Black Sea.


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