U.S. Rolls Out Sanctions against Companies Involved in Nord Stream 2

Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Senate are rolling out a new round of sanctions that could kill Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline and boost U.S. energy exports to Europe, The Hill reports.

On Wednesday, Republican Senators John Barrasso and Cory Gardner introduced a bill that would make mandatory U.S. economic sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream pipeline. Last year, Congress passed tough potential sanctions on Russian energy projects, but the new bill would make them explicitly applicable to Nord Stream and mandatory, rather than leaving them to the president’s discretion. The bill also seeks to streamline the export of more U.S. natural gas to allies such as Japan and members of NATO.

The measures would impact mostly German firms, like Wintershall. Tougher U.S. sanctions on the $11 billion natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea, are about the only thing that could kill the project at this point. What’s less clear is whether U.S. natural gas will be able to make up the difference—and whether Europe wants or needs Washington’s help in managing its own energy security.

The pipeline was criticized by President Trump during his meetings with leaders of NATO member countries in Brussels last week. He pointed out to significant geopolitical risks, including further deepening the reliance on Russian gas amid aggressive behavior from Moscow in Europe’s neighborhood.

But days later, Trump took a somewhat softer stance on the project, after meeting in Helsinki with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

“I’m not sure it is in the best interest of Germany, but that is a decision that they made. We will be competing with Russian gas with our LNG, though I know Nord Stream has an advantage. I get where the Germans are coming from, but we will compete against Nord Stream very strongly,” Trump said, answering a question about the project.

In addition to the proposed sanctions, the new U.S. legislation looks to ease restrictions on transatlantic exports and imports of U.S. natural gas for NATO members, with the goal of encouraging NATO countries to import gas from countries within the organization.