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12 Dec, 2019 12:03

Berlin warns US against interfering in EU affairs, rejects sanctions pressure

Berlin warns US against interfering in EU affairs, rejects sanctions pressure

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has lashed out at Washington over continued attempts to derail Nord Stream 2, a project that will deliver Russian gas to Germany. He said Berlin “rejects on principle” extraterritorial sanctions.

European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the US,” the German official said in a tweet responding to a Spiegel report on Washington’s eleventh hour attempts to stop Nord Stream 2. The pipeline will deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany. Berlin sees it as essential to national energy security, but Washington has been working for years to undermine it.

The irritation with Washington’s habit of telling other nations what they should and shouldn’t do has been building up in Berlin, which is increasingly defying US instructions. Backing the Russian pipeline, which will help Russia to meet Western European fuel needs and deny a market share to more costly American liquefied natural gas (LNG), is just one example.

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Allowing Chinese 5G manufacturers to bid for contracts to upgrade German telecommunications infrastructure is another recent decision that went against US wishes. Washington insists that any equipment supplied from China by default poses a security risk since Beijing would pressure firms to spy on foreign customers. Berlin said it found no proof that those fears were justified. Economy Minister Peter Altmaier even turned the tables on Washington’s arguments, saying Germany did not cut off US companies from its market after it was revealed that the US National Security Agency was tapping the phones of German leaders.

The condescending manner of Washington’s top diplomat in Berlin, Richard Grenell, probably doesn’t help defuse the tension. Since his appointment in May last year, the US ambassador has been rubbing German political and business leaders the wrong way by ordering them around. Among other things, he told the Germans to cut ties with Iran, threatened to stop defending the host country with American troops unless it spends more on its military, and berated the German media for criticizing US President Donald Trump.

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The sanctions targeting companies and people involved in the Nord Stream 2 construction were put into the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was approved by the US House on Wednesday. The relevant clause gives the Trump administration 60 days to identify those companies and provides for various forms of punishment including a freezing of assets and the withdrawal of visas.

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