New Us sanctions could jeopardize the «Nord stream — 2»
The United States has long been thinking about creating obstacles to the Nord stream 2 pipeline, through which Russia will be able to pump 55 billion cubic meters of gas through the Baltic Sea directly to Germany. But the recent statement made by us Secretary of energy Rick Perry (Rick Perry), strongly suggests that Washington is serious about imposing sanctions against this pipeline project worth about 11 billion dollars.
During his visit to Ukraine on May 21, us Secretary of energy Rick Perry made a statement that «in the near future» may be adopted a law on sanctions against the Russian pipeline project «Nord stream — 2». Prior to this, four us senators on may 15 proposed a bill «On the protection of energy security in Europe», the purpose of which is to prevent the laying of a pipeline between Russia and Germany. If the bill is approved, it will entail financial sanctions and restrictions on the movement of pipe-laying vessels involved in the construction of offshore export pipelines from Russia, as well as measures against individuals and companies assisting in the use of such vessels.
Why it matters
It is unclear whether the United States will pass this sanctions law before the end of the year, and how timely they will be to derail the Nord stream 2 projects. According to anonymous sources related to the project, there is confidence that Washington will not subject the pipeline to sanctions, and that Perry’s statement is actually aimed at ensuring that the West does not invest in future energy projects in Russia.
But it should be said that the US has long been talking about the possible introduction of sanctions against this pipeline project worth about $ 11 billion, through which Russian gas will be supplied directly to Germany, bypassing Poland, the Baltic States, and Ukraine. The fact that Perry’s statement came shortly after the senators introduced the sanctions bill may indicate a very real possibility of such measures.
In response to Perry’s statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the project would be completed «to the benefit of European consumers [of gas],» despite U.S. sanctions. But if the sanctions against the pipelayers will be introduced fully, it will be a death sentence for the «Nord stream — 2», because the access to such courts has very few companies (including the Italian Saipem (Saipem) and the Swiss «Less» (Allseas)). And due to delays in obtaining permits for laying pipes in the waters of Denmark in the Baltic sea, it can not be excluded that the pipeline will not be put into operation on schedule by the end of the year.
Sanctions are not only a lever of pressure on Russia in the us-Russian rivalry. They can also drive a wedge between Washington and the leading EU countries, whose companies are involved in laying the pipeline. Among them, «Juniper» (Sniper) and Wintershall (Wintershall) (Germany), shell (Britain and Netherlands), «OMV» (Austria) and «Engi» (Engie) (France), which together account for half of the funding of the project.
At the same time, sanctions can strengthen disputes over Nord stream 2 within the EU itself. If Germany clearly benefits from an increase in natural gas supplies, many EU Member States, primarily Poland, will suffer losses, as Russian gas is now in transit through their territories. Therefore, they oppose this project.
What to watch
To understand whether the United States intends to implement its threats and impose sanctions against Nord stream 2, it is necessary to monitor several events. Among them:
— The passage in Congress. The recently proposed sanctions bill has not yet been put to a vote in either the house of representatives or the Senate. The project will have to pass both houses of Congress, and only after that, it will get on the table to the American President Donald Trump.
— The position of the White House. The trump administration has imposed many sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses but has not yet decided to use more severe punitive measures against Moscow. After trump came to power in January 2017, the toughest us sanctions were imposed against the Russian aluminum company RUSAL, although then they were canceled due to adverse consequences for the industry as a whole. Thus, while Perry’s statements may indicate the seriousness of the White house’s intentions in considering sanctions against Nord stream 2, it is very important to monitor what position trump will take on this issue.
— Additional financing of diversification projects in Europe. The United States has politically supported several energy diversification projects that aim to reduce Central and Eastern Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. Among other things, these are terminals for LNG acceptance in Poland and Lithuania, connecting pipelines in the Baltic States and Ukraine’s actions to modernize the energy infrastructure. However, such support is mainly technical in nature, and it does not yet have a significant financial component.