The Swiss-based insurance giant could potentially be a target of a fresh round of sanctions seeking to penalize companies that provide technical certification and insurance for the project, Bloomberg reported, citing “people close to the matter.”
Zurich would be the third company this month to pull out of Nord Stream 2, after Norway’s Det Norske Veritas Holding AS and Danish engineering firm Ramboll, according to Bloomberg.
The United States has urged European allies and private firms to halt work that could help build the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as it readies new sanctions on the project, according to a report last month.
The Reuters news agency reported at the end of December that the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump was preparing a fresh round of congressionally mandated sanctions.
The news agency cited Trump administration officials as saying that the move could deal a fatal blow to the Nord Stream 2 project, which is 90 percent complete and led by Russian state gas giant Gazprom.
"We've been getting body blow on body blow to this, and now we're in the process of driving a stake through the project['s] heart," one US official said at the time, as quoted by Reuters, while speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The news agency reported that Russia in December resumed work to build the EUR 9.5 billion (USD 11.6 billion) pipeline after a one-year pause due to previous US sanctions.
A US State Department official said earlier last month that the United States would continue to use sanctions as a tool against Nord Stream 2, according to a report at the time by energetyka24.com.
“Our sanctions and authorities are working and we will stop this pipeline” from being completed, Christopher Robinson, a deputy assistant secretary in the US State Department’s Europe and Eurasia bureau, said at a virtual conference on December 16.
“Our message is clear that for those who are aiding and abetting this Russian malign influence project, they must get out now or face the consequences,” Robinson told the online conference, which was held by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
During the same conference, US Republican Senator Ted Cruz said he believed that new American sanctions would prevent the completion of the Russia-Germany gas link even as Moscow scrambled to finish the undersea project, energetyka24.com reported last month.
Cruz added that US sanctions targeted "critical vulnerabilities without which the pipeline cannot be completed."
The US Congress in December passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included legislation sanctioning any companies that provide upgrading services for vessels working on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline or that provide insurance and certification services for the project, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
In October, the United States targeted companies “providing services or facilities for upgrades or installation of equipment” for vessels participating in the construction of Nord Stream 2 and companies funding those upgrades and installations.
The pipeline is designed to have the capacity to send around 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas a year directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea while bypassing the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a media interview in September that the United States was working to build a coalition of countries to stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from being completed in Europe.
Speaking out on the pipeline in 2019, US President Donald Trump said: “We’re protecting Germany from Russia and Russia is getting billions and billions of dollars from Germany.”
Poland’s minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymański, warned in an opinion piece in September last year that Nord Stream 2, if completed, would make Europe economically dependent on Russia.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in August that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would allow Russia to buy weapons with European money.
Morawiecki has previously called Nord Stream 2 “a new hybrid weapon” aimed at the European Union and NATO.
Source: energetyka24.com, Bloomberg, Reuters