Bill sanctioning Nord Stream 2, Turkish Stream goes to White House, Russia cries foul

File photo. Onshore manager Mikhail Sarakhan walks amid installations of the natural gas pipeline 'Nord Stream' in Lubmin, Germany, 23 March 2012. [Stefan Sauer/EPA/EFE]

US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project are a breach of international law and an example of unfair competition, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday (18 December).

Moscow expects the project to be completed, Peskov added.

On Tuesday, the US Senate passed a defense policy bill which includes sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream pipelines.

The Senate easily passed the US defense policy bill with language backed by Senators Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, imposing sanctions on companies laying pipeline for the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project. It now goes to the White House, where President Donald Trump is expected to sign it.

Senator Jim Risch, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the sanctions will prevent the project’s completion and are an “important tool to counter Russia’s malign influence and to protect the integrity of Europe’s energy sector.”

Nord Stream 2, led by state-owned Gazprom, would allow Russia to bypass Poland and Ukraine to deliver gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany. US lawmakers say Ukraine could lose billions of dollars in transit fees if it is built.

The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, has opposed the pipeline, saying it would increase Russia’s political grip on Europe. Washington has touted exports of US liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to provide Europe alternatives to gas pipelined from Russia.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has rejected US sanctions as “foreign interference,” but there is concern in Europe’s biggest economy that the measures could slow the project’s completion.

Germany tells US to ‘mind its own business’ over Nord Stream 2

Germany on Thursday (12 December) warned Washington to mind its own business after US lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would sanction contractors working on a Russian pipeline to Germany. The EU also opposed sanctions against ‘companies doing …

A document from Germany’s Economics Ministry, cited by the Bild newspaper, showed Berlin believes US sanctions could hit construction of the pipeline off Denmark.

The bill targets companies based in Western Europe laying the pipeline. Dutch-Swiss company Allseas, which is laying pipeline off the Danish island of Bornholm, also could be hit.

The sanctions would require the US secretary of state to issue a report within 60 days on vessels that are engaging in pipe-laying for the Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream pipelines.

Sanctions against Turkish Stream would hurt Bulgaria which invested a lot building the continuation of the pipe from Turkey across its territory, toward Serbia, Hungary and Austria.

If a company is listed in the reports, it would then be blacklisted by Washington unless the president determined the company was winding down the operations. The president could also waive the sanctions based on national security considerations.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said last month Nord Stream 2 was expected to begin operations in mid-2020, but Gazprom said the timing will depend on weather.

The Commission said it had nothing to say at this point, but encouraged journalists to be present tomorrow in Berlin when trilateral gas talks about the future of Russian gas transit across Ukraine are taking place.

Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, who mediated the trilateral talks under the Juncker Commission, will continue the duty despite his new portfolio – Commissioner for oversight.

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