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The US may slap penalties on two European contractors laying the pipeline for the Russian-led Nord Stream 2. The political pressure is still extremely high over the project, which Moscow defines as purely economic.

Swiss-based Allseas Group and Italian Saipem may face US sanctions over firms participating in the highly debated project on behalf of its operating company, Gazprom-owned Nord Stream 2 AG, sources in the German federal government told Handelsblatt.

Allseas will reportedly lay over 90 percent of the controversial pipeline, while Saipem already completed its part of the work.

Nord Stream 2 is being implemented by Russian energy giant Gazprom in close partnership with German oil and gas firms Wintershall and Uniper, French multinational Engie, British-Dutch energy corporation Royal Dutch Shell, and Austrian energy company OMV.

The Trump administration has repeatedly expressed its disapproval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, pledging to impose secondary penalties on European companies working with the Gazprom-led enterprise. On Monday, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told the media that the firms working on the pipeline “are always in danger because sanctions are always possible.”

Washington claims that the pipeline, which is set to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea and is projected to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters a year, undermines Europe’s energy security and stability. Nord Stream 2 will reportedly provide transit for 70 percent of Russian gas sales to the EU.

Smaller members of the bloc have persistently opposed the project, which is crucially important for Germany and other EU nations. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Hungary have severely criticized the project.

Ukraine, which used to benefit from the gas transit from Russia to Europe, is standing strong against Nord Stream 2, as a successful implementation of the project will deprive its budget of transit fees.

According to Handelsblatt, Berlin is deeply concerned over the fact that the White House is threatening to set up serious obstacles to the vital energy project. The German authorities are reportedly trying to exert their influence on Washington to stop its interference in European energy policies.

Construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has been approved by Germany, Finland, and Sweden, with the works scheduled for completion in late 2019. Denmark is the only country that hasn’t authorized the project so far. Last year, Nord Stream 2 AG said the consortium could avoid the Nordic state’s territorial waters if it didn’t get permission.

 

The majority of Germans support Nord Stream 2, a poll revealed Monday. It also showed that most dismissed Donald Trump’s negative comments on the pipeline as a tactic to promote US liquefied gas in Europe.

Two-thirds of respondents support the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline because it would help provide Germany with a more reliable supply of natural gas, according to the Forsa poll, which surveyed 1,004 Germans. Nord Stream 2 is a project to expand the existing Nord Stream main gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

During the recent NATO summit, Donald Trump called Nord Stream 2 a mistake saying that Germany buying Russian gas made it its ‘captive’. But just under 84 percent of respondents to Monday’s poll brushed off Trump’s comments, labelling his statement “completely absurd”.

The poll showed 92 percent were even more cynical, saying that they suspected that Trump’s motive for making the comments was primarily to promote the sale of US liquefied gas in Europe and Germany.

The poll also indicated that over half of Germans think that Europe can defend itself without US military support, with only 37 percent of respondents saying they believed Europe depended on US military help. The Forsa poll results come less than two weeks after US president Donald Trump threatened to pull support over defence spending.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is planned to pass through the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany and is scheduled for completion at the end of 2019. According to Washington, the pipeline violates the energy security of the EU and undermines the interests of Ukraine.

In an attempt to dissuade NATO allies from participating in the pipeline project, the US has previously threatened to impose sanctions on those European energy companies involved.

Russia has defended the pipeline, saying that Moscow is a guarantor of Europe’s energy security. Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Trump’s criticism of Nord Stream-2 is an egregious example of unscrupulous competition and it worries Moscow.

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