US Warns German Companies of Possible Sanctions Over Russian Pipeline

January 13, 2019 Updated: January 13, 2019

BERLIN–The United States has warned German companies involved in the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that they could face sanctions if they stick with the project.

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Germany of being a “captive” of Moscow because of its reliance on Russian energy and urged it to halt work on the $11 billion gas pipeline.

The pipeline, which would carry gas straight to Germany under the Baltic Sea, has also been criticized in some quarters because it would deprive Ukraine of lucrative gas transit fees, potentially making Kiev more vulnerable in the future.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell addressed the issue in a letter sent to several companies, the U.S. Embassy said Jan. 13.

“The letter reminds that any company operating in the Russian energy export pipeline sector is in danger under CAATSA of U.S. sanctions,” the embassy spokesman said, adding that other European states also opposed the planned pipeline.

Germany and European allies say Washington is using its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to meddle in their foreign and energy policies.

Russian gas giant Gazprom is implementing the project jointly with Western partners Uniper, Wintershall, Engie, OMV, and Shell.

The letter raised eyebrows within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

One German diplomat said the ambassador’s approach didn’t follow common diplomatic practice and that Berlin would address the issue in direct talks with officials in Washington.

There was no comment Jan. 13 from the German companies involved in the project. A Uniper spokesman declined to comment and Wintershall didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

Germany and Russia have been at odds since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. However, both have a common interest in the Nord Stream 2 project, which is expected to double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream 1 route.

The letter was coordinated in Washington by several U.S. government agencies and “is not meant to be a threat but a clear message of U.S. policy,” the spokesman added.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Jan. 10 said that any U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream 2 would be the wrong way to solve the dispute and that questions of European energy policy had to be decided in Europe, not in the United States.

By Christina Amann and Tom Kaeckenhoff

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