by Dave Keating, Contributor
Donald Trump last night signed into law sanctions from the U.S. Congress against companies involved in constructing a new gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. But analysts say the Trump administration dithered too long for these sanctions to have any effect on the project’s completion.
The sanctions, part of an overall defence bill, will allow the U.S. to deny visas and block the property of individuals and companies financing the project. The U.S. says the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russian oil giant Gazprom, which follows the route of the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea, would make the European Union even more dependent on Russian gas than it already is. It has been joined in these objections by Poland and other Eastern European countries. The bill describes the pipeline as a “tool of coercion”.
However the main countries involved in the pipeline’s construction, Russia and Germany, believe the U.S. is using energy security concerns as a smokescreens for its own economic interests. Sitting on a glut of gas supply from the shale gas boom, the U.S. is eager to export the surplus to Europe on tankers in the form of liquified natural gas (LNG). It is believed the pipeline would dampen EU demand and make it less economically interesting to build the expensive LNG port terminals necessary to import American gas.
The European Union has identified overdependence on Russian gas as a security threat, with the country currently supplying about 40% of the EU’s gas. Official approval of the pipeline at EU level. But Brussels is distrustful of the Trump administration’s motives for opposing the pipeline has been blocked at EU level, but there is ongoing litigation over whether the EU could even block the pipeline if it wanted to. Energy sourcing is a national competence in the EU.
Though the pipeline project remains controversial and unpopular in Europe, Trump’s attacks have only managed to cause European leaders to rally around the project. The issue came to a head at a NATO summit in Brussels last year, where Trump attacked Germany for accepting the pipeline, while at the same time casting doubt on whether the U.S. would defend the country if it was attacked by Russia.