German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has expressed “displeasure” to his US counterpart Mike Pompeo about Washington’s threat of sanctions against a German port over a gas pipeline from Russia.
Speaking in Berlin on Monday as transatlantic tensions spike, Maas was asked by a reporter about last week’s letter from three US senators, which pledged tough sanctions against the operators of a key German port involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“I mentioned it in a telephone call with (Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo yesterday and expressed my surprise and displeasure,” he said.
Nord Stream 2, a 10 billion-euro ($11bn) pipeline nearing completion beneath the Baltic Sea, is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany, the EU’s largest economy.
US President Donald Trump last year signed legislation against contractors working on Nord Stream 2 and another Russian gas project, TurkStream, which goes through the Black Sea.
But while those sanctions focused on technical assistance, the separate Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act lays out harsh measures that can include severing access to the US financial system.
Pompeo announced guidelines last month stipulating that German companies could suffer sanctions even for small investments in the project.
Germany had voiced anger over the earlier sanctions law, saying that it interfered in its internal affairs.
But Ukraine, Poland and Baltic states fear that Nord Stream 2 will further embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin by giving Moscow more control over crucial energy flows.
Germany, despite political differences with Russia, sees Nord Stream 2 as ensuring a more stable and cleaner source of energy as it pivots away from coal and nuclear power.
Berlin is a long-standing ally of the US, but Trump has tense relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, once berating her as “captive” to Russia.
The Sassnitz port is located in Merkel’s electoral district, which German media interpreted as a personal affront to the veteran leader.
Meanwhile, Trump recently approved plans to pull 9,500 US troops from Germany, accusing Berlin of treating the US unfairly on trade while not paying enough as a NATO ally for defence.