Berlin (CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting Germany where he is expected to raise with his hosts U.S. concern about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia, even as German lawmakers double down in their support for it.
A Bundestag proposal this week called for steps to protect European companies involved in the project from U.S. sanctions.
“Any delay in the commissioning of Nord Stream 2 poses a threat to Germany’s energy supply and should be avoided,” the proposal stated, calling on the government to consult with other European countries on possible countermeasures.
As with the Iran nuclear deal, the document said, “the U.S. tries to assert its interests extraterritorially and without consideration for Europe.”
“In view of this, Europe should defend its interests against the political pressure of the U.S.”
The project is being designed to transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas directly from Russia to Germany, through the Baltic Sea, doubling current shipments.
The United States and some European countries argue that it will only increase Europe’s economic dependence on Russia.
U.S. legislation seeking to sanction companies and individuals involved in the project is under consideration in the House and Senate.
Pompeo, set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, is expected to reiterate U.S. opposition, and the view that the project will strengthen Moscow’s economic grip on Europe.
Ahead of Pompeo’s visit, a senior State Department official briefing on the trip called the pipeline “a tool through which Russia seeks to use energy to advance Russia’s geopolitical agenda.”
“Our view has always been that Nord Stream 2 jeopardizes that priority by making European countries and our allies more reliant on single sources, single country sources of energy,” the official said.
Meanwhile, a German newspaper has exposed what appears to be an attempt by lawmakers to get around an E.U. directive that aims to prevent exclusive Russian control over energy pipelines where they transverse E.U. waters or territory.
The directive would essentially force the Russian gas giant Gazprom to “share” the project, and subjects it to anti-trust rules.
E.U. member-states are obliged to enshrine the bloc’s directives into national law, and the German parliament has a draft law in place to do just that. But a proposed amendment to that draft law changed the text to exempt “existing projects” – an apparent attempt to make the directive not apply to Nord Stream 2.
On Tuesday, Bild published images of the amendment text, and it was quietly removed from the parliament’s agenda.
The E.U. has also been critical of the project for failing to contribute to the bloc’s goals of diversifying gas supplies. There are also concerns that, by enabling Russia to bypass and reduce gas flows through Ukraine – which relies on the lucrative transit fees – it could once again use energy supplies as a lever to exert political pressure on the region.
Relations between Ukraine and Russian remain deeply strained due to Moscow’s support for anti-government insurgents in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
Kyiv’s current gas contract with Russia expires on December 31. E.U.-mediated talks between Russia and Ukraine on gas transit failed to produce an agreement last week. They are due to continue in late November.
Ukrainian energy minister Oleksiy Orzhel said after the talks that while it was a “priority for Ukraine to receive funds for the transit,” if the flow stops, Ukraine will manage to “go through the winter without transportation and supply of gas.”
Nord Stream 2 overcame a final hurdle last week when Danish government regulators granted permission for a section of the pipeline to be built near Danish waters. It was the final country to grant the consent, after Finland, Sweden and Germany had done so.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the decision, saying during a joint news conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that it “strengthens Russia and weakens Europe.”
“This is not just a matter of energy security, it is a geopolitical issue,” Zelensky said.