Germany “Up in Arms” About Proposed US Russian Sanctions
Friday, Germany threatened to retaliate against the United States if new sanctions on Russia being proposed by the US Senate penalize German firms.
The Senate bill, approved Thursday 98-2, includes new sanctions against Russia and Iran. And it foresees punitive measures against entities that provide material support to Russia in building energy export pipelines.
Germany fears that could pave the way for fines against German and European firms involved in Nord Stream 2, a project to build a pipeline carrying Russian Nat Gas across the Baltic.
Among the European companies involved in the project are German Oil & Gas group Wintershall, German energy trading firm Uniper, Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman described the Senate bill, which must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law, as “a Peculiar move.”
Saying it was “strange” that sanctions intended to punish Russia for alleged interference in the US elections could also trigger penalties against European companies. Saying “That must not happen”
In an interview German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Berlin would have to think about counter-measures if President Trump backed the plan. “If he does, we’ll have to consider what we are going to do against it,” Mr. Zypries said.
The sharp response from Berlin comes at a time of deep strains in the transatlantic relationship due to shifts in US policy and a more confrontational rhetoric towards Europe under President Trump.
Ironically, the part of the Senate bill that targets Russia was introduced by some of the President’s top critics, including hawk Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Under Barack Hussein Obama, Washington and Europe coordinated closely as they ramped up sanctions against Moscow for its Y 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
That dialog has broken down under President Trump, who considered easing sanctions against Russia when he first came into office.
“I regret that the joint approach of Europe and the United States on Russia and sanctions has been undermined and abandoned in this way,” Mr. Zypries told reporters.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start pumping gas from Russia to Europe from Y 2019, has been dogged by controversy.
Eastern European and Baltic states fear it will make them hostage to Russian gas and undercut Ukraine by depriving it of transit fees for Russian Nat Gas supplies to Europe.
Nordic nations have security concerns over the pipeline running through territorial waters, where Russia has bolstered its military presence in recent months.
Some EU diplomats fear the threat of new measures out of Washington may harden Germany’s defense of Nord Stream and complicate already difficult talks among EU nations over whether to seek joint talks with Russia over the pipeline.
“This is not helpful now. It tends to stir up desires to protect our territorial space,” a EU diplomat said.
The House of Representatives is expected to debate the Senate bill in the coming weeks, it is unclear whether it will come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their Summer recess.
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