Published: Fri, May 18, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Moscow may use gas pipe to spy on West, US warns

Moscow may use gas pipe to spy on West, US warns

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Sandra Oudkirk, an energy policy expert at the State Department, said on a visit to Berlin on May 17 that the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and could impose sanctions on it because of its potential to increase Russia's "malign influence" in Europe.

The pipeline would allow Russian Federation to ship natural gas to Germany directly.

In return, Trump reportedly said the USA would start talks for a new trade deal with the European Union. He also would like to get the best possibilities of access of companies from America to the European market, and from June 1, the US plans to introduce high customs duties on aluminium and steel from the EU.

Trump's move could be aimed at expediting those trade negotiations and increasing USA exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe, according to some experts, although White House officials have denied such objectives.

Her comments came a day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to fly to the Russian resort of Sochi for a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, at which the pipeline issue is expected to be a key topic of discussion.

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Despite taking a hard line against Russian Federation in recent years over its aggression in Ukraine and other matters, Merkel has defended the pipeline project, saying Germany badly needs to secure its gas supplies.

"And I'm saying: What's going on with that?" The length of the pipeline will be 1.2 thousand km, and the total capacity of the existing Nord stream - 55 billion cubic meters of gas.

The US threats to Nord Stream 2, which has split eastern and western European Union states, could impact companies in Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Oudkirk said Russian Federation could use the project to place monitoring and listening devices for surveillance under the Baltic Sea, which increases the risk of the pipeline from an intelligence and security point of view.

"We are exerting as much persuasive power as we possibly can" to stop the project, she said, but noted that Congress has given the USA administration explicit authority to impose sanctions in connection with Russian pipeline projects if necessary.

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