July 30, 2020 / 2:37 PM / 8 days ago

U.S. keen to ensure Russian pipeline does not threaten Europe, Pompeo says

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, DC, U.S. July 30, 2020. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will do everything it can to ensure Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project does not pose a security threat to Europe, but needs more tools to do so, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

Russia aims to use the pipeline to double the amount of gas shipped to Germany, using a route under the Baltic Sea that will bypass Ukraine and deprive it of potentially billions of dollars in transit fees. Washington worries the pipeline extension could increase Moscow’s political and economic grip on Europe.

“We need further tools. We’re prepared to use those tools should you provide them to us,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Last month, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation that would expand existing sanctions related to the natural gas pipeline to include penalties on parties providing underwriting services, insurance or reinsurance and pipe-laying activities.

Pompeo said he felt companies involved with the pipeline understood the threat from U.S. sanctions. Pompeo recently warned that European investors in Nord Stream 2 and a branch of the Turkstream pipelines could be “put at risk” of U.S. sanctions.

Noting that, in his estimation, Germany does not agree with the U.S. assessment of the threat, Pompeo told lawmakers: “We’re taking action ourselves to try and accomplish that, to preserve security for the European people.”

Nord Stream 2, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has said may be operational later this year or next, could threaten to undercut U.S. efforts to export liquefied natural gas to Europe. The United States has a glut of natural gas and has supported efforts by Europe to diversify its imports of LNG from other sources, including Norway.

Nord Stream 2 suspended construction last December after Swiss-Dutch company Allseas, which specializes in subsea construction, pulled out following President Donald Trump’s signing of a defense policy bill that contained other sanctions on the project.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Franklin Paul and Paul Simao

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