The US increased its pressure on the Western European countries partnering with Russia on Nord Stream 2 earlier this week, accusing Moscow of using the gas pipeline project as a “geopolitical weapon” and threatening to levy sanctions against European companies working with Gazprom on the project.
Austria envisions Nord Stream 2 as a project which will help ensure Europe’s long-term supply of energy, and does not support efforts to replace it, Austrian Economy Minister Margarete Schrambock has indicated.
“We support this project to secure Europe’s long-term energy supply,” Schrambock said, speaking to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview.
According to the minister, other sources of energy, including liquefied natural gas supplies from the United States, are welcome in Europe, “but in addition to, not instead of Nord Stream 2.”
Austrian energy giant OMV is one of five Western European energy companies working with Russian gas giant Gazprom on the construction of Nord Stream 2, an $11 billion energy infrastructure project designed to deliver up to 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to a hub in Germany via the Baltic Sea.
Expected to be completed later this year, the project is actively opposed by Washington and its allies in Eastern Europe, with some of the latter standing to lose revenues from ground-based pipelines through which Russian gas makes its way west.
The US has repeatedly attempted to derail the project, threatening participating companies with sanctions and dismissing the project as a geopolitical scheme. Officials from Germany, Nord Stream 2’s key European supporter, have maintained that the project is purely economic, and designed to deliver competitively priced Russian pipeline gas to the continent to meet its growing energy needs.
Last week, President Trump and Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini issued a joint statement condemning Nord Stream 2, saying that energy security was “fundamental” to both countries national security and accusing Moscow of using Nord Stream 2 as a “geopolitical weapon.”
This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly canceled his visit to Germany, citing “international security issues” and flying to Baghdad instead. Pompeo was expected to discuss multiple issues with German officials, including Nord Stream 2.
Together with Gazprom and OMV, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, France’s Engie and Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell are involved in the pipeline project.