Germany expects US sanctions to slightly delay Russian pipeline

The US sanctions slapped on a controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe will likely delay the project by several months but it will still be completed next year, a top German official said Monday

Germany expects US sanctions to slightly delay Russian pipeline
The Nord Stream 2 construction. Photo: DPA

The sanctions “will postpone the completion” of the undersea pipeline, said Peter Beyer, Chancellor Angela Merkel's transatlantic coordinator.

“But I expect the pipeline to be finished in the second half of 2020,” he told German public radio Deutschlandfunk.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline was initially slated for completion in early 2020 with a view to being operational in mid-2020.

Moscow likewise insisted the US sanctions would not derail the project as it threatened Washington with retaliation.

“Such sanctions are unacceptable for us, and we are confident that such measures won't prevent finishing the construction of such an important project,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“In any case, we won't leave such steps unanswered,” he said.

“As to when and how this will be done, this will depend on Russia's national interest.”

READ ALSO: Germany, EU fume at Russian 'interference' over Russian gas pipeline

Both Moscow and Berlin have reacted furiously to the sanctions imposed by Washington on Friday over the €9.5 billion pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The American announcement of asset freezes and visa bans targeting companies involved in the project immediately led to Swiss pipe-laying contractor Allseas halting its work on the remaining stretches.

But Beyer said “alternative” solutions could be found to finish the project that would however “cause delays and be more expensive”.

He also reiterated Germany's criticism of the US move, saying “that's not how you treat friends”.

Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer at the weekend slammed the sanctions as “an interference in our internal affairs”.

'More expensive'

The United States has long opposed Nord Stream 2, saying the pipeline would give Russia too much influence over security and economic issues in western Europe.

The project aims to double Russia's natural gas deliveries to Germany and is set to transport 55 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe's top economy per year.

It would also allow Russia to reroute supplies from overland pipes running through Ukraine, with Kiev expressing concerns this would deprive them of vital leverage over its giant neighbour.

Some critics however have pointed out that Washington's resistance to Nord Stream 2 comes as the US is trying to sell more of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe.

Switching to more American LNG “would be considerably more expensive for German consumers,” Beyer said.

More than 80 percent of the Nord Stream 2 project has already been completed, half of it financed by Russia's state-owned Gazprom and half by five European companies.

The European Union has joined the chorus of condemnation over the US penalties, saying the bloc opposed “sanctions against European companies engaged in legal activities”.

But the project has divided the EU, with Poland and some Baltic nations also viewing the pipeline with suspicion over fears Moscow could use it to exert political pressure.

In Berlin, Merkel's spokeswoman Demmer said “further discussions are being held” with different parties to find a solution.

“And we will continue to express our view that we don't condone such extra-territorial sanctions,” she added.

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.