The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a USD 738 billion defence policy bill that includes a measure to punish companies involved in work to build the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas link from Russia to Germany, a disputed energy project opposed by Poland, according to reports.
The US defence policy bill, known as the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, sets out priorities for the Pentagon and funding targets for programmes; it authorises sanctions aimed at pipe-laying ships involved in Russia’s construction of the new gas pipeline to Europe under the Baltic Sea, the Washington Post reported on its website.
Polish website niezalezna.pl on Thursday reported that the head of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, Matthias Schepp, condemned the US initiative and called on the government in Berlin to retaliate.
"We should respond to sanctions that harm Europe,” he said, according to niezalezna.pl.
Schepp was also quoted as saying that American sanctions posed a threat to Europe's independence and energy security.
“It is time for Berlin and Brussels to take a clear stand and firmly respond," Schepp told German news agency DPA on Wednesday night, according to niezalezna.pl.
He argued that, once completed, Nord Stream 2 would increase energy security in Europe and ensure gas supplies at competitive prices, including with regard to US liquefied natural gas (LNG), niezalezna.pl reported.
"By introducing sanctions, the United States wants to support sales of its LNG to Europe," Schepp said, according to the Polish website.
He added that “Germany needs energy at favourable prices to keep its economy competitive globally," niezalezna.pl also reported.
It said Schepp also denied claims that Nord Stream 2 would largely make Germany dependent on Russian gas.
He said the sanctions planned by the United States would primarily hit European companies and Germany’s energy interests, not Russia, niezalezna.pl reported.
The 1,200-kilometre Nord Stream 2 pipeline 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.
Warsaw and Washington have both strongly criticised the project amid concerns that the pipeline will make the European Union more dependent on Russian gas.
US President Donald Trump was cited as saying in 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 this 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 said last year that Nord Stream 2 was “a new hybrid weapon” aimed at the European Union and NATO.