The planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline is the latest addition to the list of tensions between Europe and the US. The project has raised US intelligence concerns since it would enable Moscow to put new listening and monitoring technology in the Baltic Sea. Reportedly, US President Donald Trump wants Germany to drop the project of a pipeline that would bring Russian gas to Germany across the floor of the Baltic Sea as one of the conditions of a trade deal with Europe that would not include high tariffs on aluminum and steel.
The White House confirmed that the Congress had recently given President Trump new authority to impose sanctions against a variety of Russian pipeline projects. Any firms involved in the Nord Stream 2 project were in “an elevated position of sanctions risk”, Sandra Oudkirk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy, commented. She also added that the White House was prioritizing using diplomatic means to halt Nord Stream 2.
The US pushback came a day before Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Sochi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks that were partly also about Nord Stream 2. Germany wants to keep looking for “islands of cooperation” with the Kremlin, including the commitment to Iran’s nuclear deal. Berlin also reiterated that Nord Stream 2 was a strictly commercial project but there was also the need to consider the interests of Ukraine as a gas transit country.
Europeans have also suggested that Washington’s motives might not be purely altruistic. The 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act lists the US’s opposition to Nord Stream 2 right next to a clause requiring the White House to “prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs, help United States allies and partners, and strengthen United States foreign policy.” German leaders also suspect that US attempts to halt Nord Stream 2 are part of an effort to increase US liquefied natural gas exports, which accounted for 5 percent of Europe’s LNG imports in 2017.