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20 Jan 2021, 10:10
Julian Wettengel

German government “notes with regret” U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream 2

Handelsblatt / dpa / Clean Energy Wire / Deutsche Welle / Reuters

[Update adds new U.S. govt opposing pipeline + Russia vows to complete project]

The U.S. informed the German government that it is introducing sanctions today (19 January) on the Russian pipe-laying vessel Fortuna over its involvement in the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Handelsblatt reports. “We note this with regret,” a spokesperson from the German economy ministry told the news agency dpa. Until now, there have only been threats of a sanction. Handelsblatt writes that it is unclear whether the sanctions on the Russian vessel would have any effect on its involvement in Nord Stream 2, as the Russian government has tried to make its companies largely “immune” to such sanctions. The U.S. embassy in Berlin told the newspaper that it hopes “Germany will rethink its position” on the project and that it will continue to take “all necessary and appropriate steps” to stop the pipeline project. The new U.S. administration is unlikely to change course after Joe Biden's inauguration as President. Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state, told his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Biden strongly agrees with members of Congress that the pipeline is a bad idea, reported Reuters. Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he had not discussed the issue at length yet with Biden, but the administration will use “every persuasive tool” available to persuade countries including Germany.
Deutsche Welle reported that despite the sanctions Russia was still planning "to continue the works for the completion of this project", according to government spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Sascha Müller-Kraenner, managing director of NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH), said that while extraterritorial sanctions are “problematic,” the construction of Nord Stream 2 is wrong. “This project serves only the geopolitical interests of Russia and destroys the climate,” he wrote on Twitter.

Bild Zeitung reported that leading industrial services provider Bilfinger was the first German company to withdraw from Nord Stream 2 due to the sanction threats by the U.S. Bild wrote the company had notified the U.S. in December 2020 already. Bilfinger in 2017 won an order for development, delivery and commissioning of the process control and monitoring systems for operation of the pipeline.

Construction was halted in December 2019 after the U.S. enacted a sanctions bill affecting companies working on the pipeline. The project has been contested since the early planning stages. Proponents argue the pipeline is a commercial investment that is key to Europe's supply security, while opponents criticise Nord Stream 2 on environmental, geopolitical and security grounds. Around 160 km of Nord Stream 2’s pipeline, most of which will be in Danish waters, still needs to be completed. Recent plans by a regional government in Germany to circumvent U.S. sanctions on companies involved by creating a “climate” foundation have been heavily criticised.

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