During a press conference on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a warning to companies and individuals invested in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that “aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated.”
“Get out now — or risk the consequences,” he said.
Nord Stream 2 is an $11 billion project that consists of two parallel pipelines running under the Baltic Sea, with a combined length of 1,230 kilometres. When the final few kilometres are laid and the pipeline becomes operational, it will double the rate at which Germany imports natural gas from Russia.
The project is backed predominantly by the Russian state energy firm Gazprom, though it is also co-signed by Uniper, Royal Dutch Shell and Wintershall, among other companies. Earlier this month, the government of Denmark gave its permission for the final 120 kilometres of pipeline to be laid in Danish waters towards Germany.
The US government has repeatedly criticised the project, claiming that it will increase the EU’s dependency on Russian energy, though the German government has repeatedly rebuffed calls to end the project. Peter Beyer, the German government’s transatlantic communicator, commented: “There is reason to suspect that Washington primarily wants to sell its own gas in western Europe.”
The US State Department has revised the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to remove language exempting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from its effects. The government previously passed separate legislation to sanction vessels laying pipes for Nord Stream 2, forcing Swiss-based firm Allseas to back out of the project.
Russia is now trying to use its own vessels to finish the pipeline, but necessarily relies on the assistance of Western companies’ ports and insurance, giving the US leverage to hamper the construction project.