US senators urge Trump to block construction of Russian gas pipeline to Europe
“We write to express our concern about the continuing development of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. We oppose Nord Stream 2 and urge the administration to utilize all of the tools at its disposal to prevent its construction,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, as cited by Sputnik.
The letter, first seen by the Washington Examiner, warns the US government over probable monopolization of European energy markets. According to 39 US senators who signed the document, the project, implemented by Russia’s state-run firm Gazprom and its partners, represents a setback in Europe’s attempts to diversify its gas supplies. The pipeline allegedly makes the US more susceptible to Russian coercion and influence.
“For too long, European nations have been held hostage to Russian political pressure on a whole host of issues due to their dependence on Gazprom to deliver gas needed to keep their people warm throughout the winter,” the letter reads.
“The best way to guarantee Europe’s long-term economic health and independence is to enable and support investment in a variety of energy sources, suppliers, and routes to meet Europe’s needs and to force Gazprom to negotiate as a market actor and not a monopolist,” the senators wrote.
The letter says that a provision in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) gives Washington an extra tool to identify and sanction US and foreign entities that support Russian companies. The CAATSA law, approved last summer, was deployed to impose new penalties against 19 Russian individuals and five Russian entities.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, aimed at doubling the existing pipeline's capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year. In Germany, it will connect with gas pipelines in the European Union for further transportation.
Berlin greenlighted the project late in January, stating it has been thoroughly discussed and planned with a “sensitive natural habitat” and the interests of tourism and shipping industries were taken into consideration. The project has also received praise from the major Austrian oil and gas company, OMV, which stressed it meant the “security of gas supply” for Europe.
The Nord Stream 2, however, has been repeatedly opposed by some European countries including Ukraine, Poland, Romania and the Baltic states.
Earlier, Konrad Szymanski, Poland's secretary of state for European affairs, said he would urge Berlin to reject the project amid an ongoing scandal over the nerve agent attack on former double-agent Sergei Skripal in the UK. Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Germany didn’t link Nord Stream 2 to the Skripal incident, as the project was a commercial and economic enterprise.
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