Robert HARNEIS –TDO- (FRANCE) - US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has repeated threats against European companies working on the Nordstream2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The new pipeline directly links Russia and Germany and will provide a potential further 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. According to the German financial paper Handelsblatt, Grenell said that companies working on Nordstream2 ‘are still in danger because sanctions are still possible.’ Without giving details of further possible sanctions he said ‘the companies concerned would take the decision to withdraw from the project when they are confronted by the threat of sanctions.’
He has already published an article in the Rheinische Post entitled ‘Germany must stop supporting Nordstream2. Such anti-Russian rhetoric is all part of the US policy of keeping Europe, and especially Germany, separated from Russia and supporting the Baltic States and Poland in the same stance.
As usual with the new style Trump diplomacy, it is difficult to know how seriously to take these threats. First, of all the main participants signed their agreements with the Russian Gazprom well before the relevant sanctions were brought into law. Secondly, of the two contractors most under threat, engineering company Saipem and pipe layers Allseas, Saipem has virtually finished its contract.
Secondly the purpose of the threats may well be to apply indirect pressure on Germany in the trade talks underway concerning German car exports to the US. Grenell is active in furthering these talks. The United States must be fully aware that for practical reasons Germany desperately needs the new pipeline as it runs down nuclear power and as European – Dutch and UK – sources of gas diminish.
It would also be politically very damaging for any German government to give in to the bullying of the United States for reasons of prestige. There is already much criticism by Germans of their government’s subservience to the US. This is particularly so as a further US motive is seen to be to bully the EU into buying more expensive US LNG gas.
The third reason the US continues harassing the Germans over Nordstream is that when it is finished it will likely cause a big drop in payments to Ukraine where the gas currently transits. Ukraine is already an economic basket case dependent on handouts from the West, since the US and EU backed putsch in the country in 2014.
Both Russia and Germany have said the pipeline project is not political but purely economic. Russia has said that anyway they are quite happy to continue supplying gas via Ukraine… providing they get paid.