What’s behind America’s Nord Stream objections?

Time could be running out for the Nord Stream 2 project as France may withhold support. The project to bring gas from Russia directly to Germany has many detractors, especially America.

France is about to withhold its support for the Nord Stream 2 project, according to a report in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. The natural gas pipeline, a third of which is already laid across the Baltic Sea seabed, is a massive European project and would directly connect Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and Poland. By some it has been seen as yet another contribution to energy security, by others as a geopolitical tool. It depends where you live.

Technically not a European Union project, up to this point Germany has had the support of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece and the Netherlands for the pipeline. If Paris is really about to abandon support, it could have grave effects for the 1,230 kilometer (764 mile) project since the countries work so closely together.

Strong American feelings

Strangely enough, it is the distant Americans that have been loudest in their protest. And this resistance has only grown louder since Donald Trump took over the reins in Washington.

Since arriving in Germany in May 2018, his US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, has continuously mixed in his host country’s affairs. It was a break with long-standing protocol and annoyed many German businesses. Earlier this month it was reported that he escalated the Nord Stream 2 debate by sending threatening letters to German companies working on the pipeline.

And Thursday, Grenell along with the US ambassadors to Denmark and the EU sent a strongly-worded editorial to DW: “Make no mistake: Nord Stream 2 will bring more than just Russian gas. Russian leverage and influence will also flow under the Baltic Sea and into Europe, and the pipeline will enable Moscow to further undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and stability.”

Critics of those remarks point out that the US probably has its own business interests at heart as American companies would be more than happy to sell their own liquid gas to many European countries. DW earlier reported that German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier hadn’t ruled out importing from the US, but only as a supplement to Russian gas, and very importantly only if the price was right. This was surely not enough for Washington.

Unstoppable?

But can such a huge multi-national project be stopped, especially by a country not even directly involved? In reality the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is actually two parallel pipes each of which has an inside diameter of 1.2 meters (4 feet). Ironically it closely follows the path of Nord Stream 1, a similar project in operation since 2011 that doesn’t seem to bother anyone at the moment.

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