A group of US senators last week introduced a bill to expand sanctions on the controversial energy project opposed by Washington and Warsaw.
Poland’s PAP news agency this week cited German business newspaper Handelsblatt as reporting that a “geopolitical dispute” over the Nord Stream 2 project was escalating.
Several German officials have voiced criticism of the proposed sanctions, with one politician from the country’s governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) calling the US initiative a "hostile act," Handelsblatt reported, according to the Polish news agency.
The US bill, known as the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act, aims to stop Russia from completing the controversial project by slapping penalties on companies assisting with the construction of the pipeline.
Handelsblatt reported the new US bill, spearheaded by Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, could deal a body blow to German companies and further delay the construction of the pipeline, which it said was already 94 percent complete.
The newspaper also said that the fresh push for sanctions could increase tension in relations between the administration in Washington and the German government, which supports the Nord Stream 2 project politically, according to Handelsblatt.
‘Hostile act against allies’
The newspaper quoted a spokeswoman for the German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier as saying that Germany's "position on extraterritorial sanctions is well known and clear: We reject them because they are contrary to international law."
Meanwhile, Joachim Pfeiffer, the CDU parliamentary group’s spokesman for economic affairs, was quoted as saying that the initiative by the American senators was an "act hostile to allies," aimed at the sovereignty of Germany and Europe.
Pfeiffer told Handelsblatt that the pipeline under construction would help diversify transport routes and increase the competitiveness and security of supplies on the European energy market.
Another German politician, Bernd Westphal, the SPD's parliamentary group's spokesman for economic affairs and energy, denounced the new US legislation in an interview with Handelsblatt. He argued that Germany was a sovereign country and that its energy policy was made in Berlin and Brussels, not in Washington, the PAP news agency reported.
Klaus Ernst, a left-wing politician who chairs the German lower house’s Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy, has urged the federal government to retaliate with its own sanctions, according to the Polish news agency.
Oliver Hermes, chairman of an organisation representing the interests of German businesses in Central and Eastern Europe, argued that the adoption of new sanctions by the United States would hit dozens of German and European companies.
Hermes voiced hope in Handelsblatt that the European Commission and the German government would protect European companies against what he described as external influences, the PAP news agency said.
According to the Nord Stream 2 AG company, which is building the gas pipeline, obstructing the project means disregarding European consumers, who could be forced to pay billions more for natural gas if the construction project is not completed, Handelsblatt also reported, as cited by the Polish state news agency.
'Crippling and immediate American sanctions'
The new US push for sanctions follows a measure approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump late last year.
Sen. Cruz said in a statement accompanying the new bill that “there is bipartisan and bicameral consensus that Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses a critical threat to America's national security and must not be completed.”
He added that the legislation “will once and for all clarify that those involved in any way with installing pipeline for the project will face crippling and immediate American sanctions."
Sen. Shaheen said the effort aimed “to ensure that Russia does not surreptitiously extend its malign influence throughout Europe.”
She added that “Nord Stream 2 threatens Ukraine, Europe’s energy independence and gives Russia an opening to exploit our allies.”
The bill must be passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump.
It seeks to impose sanctions on “vessels engaged in all pipe laying activities” as well as companies that provide services for those vessels, including “insurance, port facilities, or tethering services,” and ultimately “any company that provides certification for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to begin operations.”
'New hybrid weapon' against EU, NATO: Polish PM
The Nord Stream 2 undersea gas link is an energy project strongly criticised by Poland and the United States amid concerns that the pipeline will make the European Union more dependent on Russian gas.
Once up and running, the 1,200-kilometre link is expected to have the capacity to send around 55 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas a year directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, while bypassing the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
The US Senate in December approved a massive defence policy bill that included a measure to punish companies involved in work to build the pipeline.
US President Donald Trump was cited as saying last June that Nord Stream 2 "really makes Germany a hostage of Russia if things ever happen that were bad."
He added, as quoted by the Reuters news agency at the time: “We’re protecting Germany from Russia and Russia is getting billions and billions of dollars from Germany."
US Vice President Mike Pence warned earlier last year that America “cannot ensure the defence of the West” if its allies grow dependent on Moscow as a result of projects such as Nord Stream 2.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called Nord Stream 2 “a new hybrid weapon” aimed at the EU and NATO.
Poland’s antitrust authority last week said it had initiated proceedings against Russia’s Gazprom company in a case involving the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Source: polskieradio24.pl, PAP