27 July 2019

The US Administration wants to block the Path of Russian gas to Europe for political and economic reasons

Sergiu Medar

Due to the fact that Russia violated European law, and ignoring the separate fact that Angela Merkel, using her position of influence in the European Union, endorsed the idea that the Nord Stream 2 project respects EU regulations, the US made the decision to sanction Russia for not respecting the union’s decision. A bipartisan group of senators from the US Congress filed a resolution with the Senate which aims to sanction individuals and companies taking part in the project.

Image source: Mediafax

The Nord Stream 2 project requires the construction of two underwater pipelines, with a total length of 1225 km, worth EUR8.39 billion, which would link the cities of Viborg (Russia) and Greiswald (Germany), in order to double the natural gas quantity Russia delivers to Europe. Through this project, Russia intends to make the European states dependent on Russian gas and, form here, by politically using the gas delivery process, to influence EU or NATO decisions.

On February 8, 2019, the EU Council voted on the European Commission’s proposal to amend the Gas Directive, in order to impose a series of conditions applicable not only for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but also for other European pipelines transporting oil and gas from Russia. As she is directly interested in the Baltic Sea pipeline, Merkel personally intervened in the negotiations and obtained from the European Council the responsibility to oversee, on part of the European Union, the manner in which Gas Directive stipulations are applied in the Nord Stream 2 project. As until now there is no public information according to which the Directive’s provisions have been applied, it is questionable whether Russia has respected its promises. Not respecting them, in the conditions of Merkel vouching for Gazprom, will diminish the German Chancellor’s position in the EU, and from thereon will limit her possibilities to continue supporting Russia in EU’s political decisions.

The US openly opposes this project, as Donald Trump stated in July 2018, during the NATO Summit in Brussels. Washington will not accept to use American taxpayer money to ensure the security of Germany against the entity it is doing business with, and might become dependent on both for energy and politically. As the Nord Stream 2 project is continuing unhindered, and Russia is ignoring EU legislation, the US, following repeated threats of sanctions, now has legislation pending in Congress to apply them.

This law was made public the day after Trump re-stated, during the announced of an USD8 billion transaction with Poland for supplying liquefied gas, the fact that Nord Stream 2 gas will “make Germany a hostage of Russia”.

The new bill, named Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe (ESCAPE) Act of 2019, was proposed by a bipartisan group of senators, whose initiator is Wyoming Senator John Barraso. The bill’s objectives are to:

  • reduce the dependency of allied or partner states on energy resources from Russia, in order to ensure a robust and long-time state of security


  • condemn and discourage the Russian Government from using energy resources as a geopolitical weapon in the scope of coercing, intimidating and influencing states made dependent
  • increase the energy security of European states by simple and safe access to different energy resources


  • promote energy security by cooperating with the European Union and other US allies, to develop a free energy market which would assure access to energy resources, providers and diverse transport routes


  • oppose the Nord Stream 2 project, which negatively affects the European Union’s energy security, as well as the economy of Ukraine and other Eastern European states


  • have the US support allied and partner states by providing energy


The bill instructs US representatives to NATO to convince the Alliance’s member states to act towards ensuring NATO’s energy security. That is why they recommend diversifying energy resources, as well transport routes towards beneficiaries. In this regard, it recommends the US administration to grow its energy export towards NATO states. Considering that buying energy only from Russia affects the capacity of NATO members to act, the congressmen think that this threat can be nullified only by purchasing natural liquefied gas from the US. A chapter of the new law is destined specifically to this recommendation.

The US Congress tasked the US secretary of state to draft and present, together with the Energy Secretary and the director of the International Development Agency, a US Transatlantic Energy Strategy to the Congress within 90 days.

The bill stipulates new sanctions for Russian or foreign companies which are investing or taking part in any way at modernizing the old pipelines or the construction of new oil and gas pipelines which would allow the transport of energy from Russia to NATO states.  These sanctions refer to individuals, private or state companies and are of the same kind as those imposed by the US on Russia following its annexation of Crimea, according the US Congress resolution Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions (22 USC 9529).

During the inauguration ceremony of new Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry talked about this US Congress resolution, announcing that President Trump considers Nord Stream 2 a threat to European security.

Senator Tom Cotton, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said that “if the project will not be stopped, Moscow will use the pipeline to divide East European nations from the Central and Western European ones”.

Henning Kothe, the Nord Steam 2’s project chief, said that those taking part in the project know that the US will implement sanctions to companies involved in constructing the pipeline. “We know that there is a risk. We do not believe these sanctions will be applied. We, of course, are permanently in contact with companies we are working with, in order to take the best decisions together. Not a single contractor has left the project until now”.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, previously said regarding the sanctions that “the project was mostly implemented and we are convinced that it will be finished to the benefit of European consumers”. On the US threats, Peskov said that this is “nothing else than an open manifestation of disloyal competition”. He was of course referring to the US offer to deliver European states liquefied gas.

Russia and the US are both accusing each other of the fact that they are trying to use energy as a weapon to reach political goals.

Igor Sechin, the chairman of Rosneft, considered the biggest Russian oil company and its chief a de facto deputy of Putin, said the following regarding US sanctions: “Today’s reality is that the United States are using energy as a political weapon on a global scale. Sanctions, or just threatening to impose them, have a destructive effect on the global energy market. The US applies sanctions to the major energy producers in the world, such as Venezuela and Iran, especially in order to make place for US gas deliveries”.

This aspect, with commercial connotations favouring the US, was not denied by the bill’s main initiator who said that: “The ESCAPE Act will deprive Putin of his main geopolitical weapon, by sanctioning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and growing US natural gas exports… This makes sense if we use our resources to help our allies and lower Russia’s influence in the region”.

Introducing this law is just the beginning of a fairly long process. Should it pass the Senate, it will be sent to the House of Representatives and, pending approval, will be sent to the US president for enactment.

Translated by Ionut Preda