London — US President Donald Trump launched Wednesday a scathing attack against Germany and other countries in Europe for supporting the planned 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
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In televised comments ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump said NATO was tasked with protecting Germany and other European countries from Russia, while Germany was at the same time "paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia."
"So we're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting all of these countries and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia," he said. "I think that's very inappropriate."
The controversial pipeline project will follow the same route as the original 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream pipeline, thereby doubling the route's capacity to 110 Bcm/year.
Nord Stream 2 is opposed by the European Commission, the US and much of Eastern Europe on the grounds that it increases Europe's dependence on one import route and also sees Ukraine's role as a transit country significantly diminished.
However, the pipeline has the support of five European energy companies -- France's Engie, Austria's OMV, Anglo-Dutch Shell, and Germany's Uniper and Wintershall -- that are helping to finance the project, saying it is a commercial project that will help meet Europe's growing gas import needs.
Each company committed Eur950 million ($1.2 billion) to the Eur9.5 billion project, adding up to 50% of the expected total cost.
'CAPTIVE TO RUSSIA'
Trump said Berlin would become increasingly tied to Russian gas supplies in the future, describing Germany as being a "captive to Russia."
"Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. Is that appropriate?" he said, adding that Nord Stream 2 "should never have been allowed to happen."
"It's a very bad thing for NATO. We have to talk to Germany about it," he said.
The rhetoric around Nord Stream 2 -- whose construction is already ostensibly under way after work began mid-May to dig the trench for the pipelay offshore Germany -- has intensified in recent months.
The mood shifted in particular in mid-April when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were also political considerations around Nord Stream 2 and it was unacceptable for the project to mean Ukraine no longer had "any significance" in transiting Russian gas.
Trump was due to meet Merkel later Wednesday during the NATO summit. In August 2017, the US approved a new sanctions law -- the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) -- which included measures that could be taken against companies that invest in Russian energy export pipelines.
Despite guidance in late October that those sanctions would only be imposed after coordination with allies and that projects that had been approved before August 2 would not be affected, recent comments from US officials suggested sanctions could still be used against companies helping finance Nord Stream 2.
-- Stuart Elliott, Stuart.Elliott@spglobal.com
-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, firstname.lastname@example.org