Washington imposed sanctions on the joint Russian-West European energy project in December 2019, tacking the restrictions on to its 2020 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA). The Trump administration announced additional restrictions against the project in October, threatening third party contractors with crippling secondary sanctions.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the House and Senate has agreed on adding more sanctions to Nord Stream 2 using the 2021 NDAA, echoing the move made by Congress in late 2019 which helped temporarily to halt the energy mega-project’s construction, Bloomberg has reported, citing three sources.
According to the business outlet, the sanctions will target insurance and certification firms attached to Russian vessels, as well as pipe-laying activities, but will not affect any German officials.
Senator Bob Menendez, ranking Democrat member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Washington is looking to ‘make clear’ to Berlin that “Germany, as an ally, and public officials within Germany, would not be part of any such sanctions.”
The leniency doesn’t appear to apply to companies, however. In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned energy firms should “get out” of the project immediately “or risk the consequences.”
Sanctions on Top of Sanctions
Washington already broadened sanctions against Nord Stream 2 in October, justifying the restrictions via the ironically named ‘Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019’. Moscow called the sanctions an example of the US’s “unfair competition” practices, and stressed that sanctions would not derail the project.
Also last month, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated that Nord Stream 2 “will be completed”, adding that only Berlin has the right to make independent decisions related to its energy security. Previously, Berlin had threatened to freeze the project entirely in connection with the alleged poisoning of Russian liberal opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
The sanctions introduced via the 2020 NDAA last December prompted Swiss pipe-laying contractor Allseas to pull out of Nord Stream 2’s construction, with just 160 km of the pipeline left to build. Russia responded by sending its Akademik Cherskiy pipe-laying ship to the Baltic Sea to get ready to complete the project.
Nord Stream 2 is a 1,230 km, $10.5 billion project between Russia’s Gazprom and several major western European energy concerns. Once finished, the pipeline will double the 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year capacity of the existing Nord Stream network, and turn Germany into a major energy hub for deliveries further west.