Washington has repeatedly bashed the Nord Stream 2 project which the US claims will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and potentially leave it vulnerable. Moscow denies the allegations, also calling Nord Stream 2 a purely commercial project which should not be politicised.
In a joint statement issued after their talks in Washington on Friday, US President Donald Trump and Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini specifically lashed out at the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
“Our countries also affirm that energy security is fundamental to national security. We reiterate our opposition to the use of energy projects as geopolitical weapons, including Nord Stream 2”, the statement, published on the White House’s website, said.
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This comes as US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell again warned German companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 that they could face punitive measures if they remain committed to the Russian-European project.
He told Germany’s Focus magazine that “from the American point of view, this gas pipeline not only transports gas, but also has a high sanction risk”, something that was also mentioned in Grenell’s warning letter to German companies in mid-January over their participation in the Nord Stream 2 project.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in February, US Vice President Mike Pence, in turn, addressed the country’s western allies, “commending European partners who’ve taken a strong stand against Nord Stream 2”, and warning them against “growing dependent on the East”.
Bavaria’s Minister-President Markus Soder, for his part, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that the US is pushing its own interests in the EU by blasting Nord Stream 2.
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Also in February, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz emphasised that Vienna is interested in reliable energy supplies and will continue to support the Nord Stream 2 project despite the negative stance of the United States on the issue.
“[Trump] has clearly said that the United States is against this project. We are aware of this. We support this project because we are interested in reliable energy supplies to Austria. [….] Finally, there is some sort of agreement on this project in Europe. And we will further promote this project”, Kurz said in an interview with the Austrian ORF broadcaster.
Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture between Russian gas giant Gazprom and five European companies — Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV and Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell.
The project, due to be completed before the end of this year, aims to deliver 55 billion cubic meters (1.9 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to the European Union.
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The pipeline has been welcomed by some countries in Europe and opposed by others echoing Washington’s concerns over the alleged danger of Europe’s dependence on Russia and the subsequent diminished transit role of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, suggested that by criticising Nord Stream 2, his US counterpart Donald Trump was seeking to force Russia out of the European energy market so that Washington can capitalise on selling more of its liquefied natural gas to Europe. Moscow has also repeatedly reiterated that the pipeline is a purely commercial project.