Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nord Stream 2: US congress hits pipe-laying companies

Foreign Policy describes the balancing act of US administration to impede russian dominated Nord Stream 2 pipeline and preserve a productive relationship with german and other european governments:

"The threat of sanctions is now more pronounced. Two bills in the House and the Senate, instead of penalizing the major gas companies involved, would target a perceived weak link: the specialized pipe-laying companies working on Nord Stream 2 (and on the Russian state-controlled gas company Gazprom’s TurkStream project, which will bring Russian gas across the Black Sea to Turkey and eventually to Europe). The bills would sanction pipe-laying companies involved in the project, freezing their U.S. assets and prohibiting them from doing U.S. business.  Only a handful of companies possess the pipe-laying technology Nord Stream 2 needs, and they are in high demand worldwide. One of them, the Swiss-based contractor Allseas—which is heavily exposed to the U.S. dollar and U.S. business—is essential to completing the pipeline, and the proposed sanctions could cause the company to withdraw. The bills have bipartisan support: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill by a vote of 20 to two at the end of July, after the House version passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with similar bipartisan approval. The bills’ widespread support across parties and chambers increases their likelihood of passing with a veto-proof majority, which could kill the pipeline or delay its completion by years."
"Since 2014, Germany has been the linchpin for sustaining EU sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Increasingly, countries such as Italy, Greece, and Hungary express a desire to end the sanctions, but Berlin has held the EU together. It is risky for the United States to subject Germany to increased political pressure on Nord Stream 2 at a time when solidarity on the more comprehensive sanctions effort is eroding. It would add to a growing list of U.S.-German tensions, including  U.S. tariffs on European aluminum and steel, U.S. demands that Germany increase its defense spending, the consequences of U.S. withdrawal over the Iran nuclear deal, and the question of how best to respond to China’s growing international economic role and the influence of its technology companies worldwide. It is hard to imagine a German government going out on a limb on other U.S. requests—whether for German participation in a maritime escort mission in the Persian Gulf or for German ground troop commitments in Syria—while Washington is sanctioning German companies over Nord Stream 2."

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