The Stratfor think tank said that, while the United States has long considered obstructing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a statement this week from Energy Secretary Rick Perry offers “the strongest indication yet” that Washington could be getting serious about sanctioning the roughly USD 11 billion project.
The controversial 1,200-kilometre pipeline is expected to have the capacity to send around 55 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas a year directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, while bypassing the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
Warsaw and Washington have both strongly criticised the project amid concerns that the pipeline will make the European Union more dependent on Russian gas.
Perry warned on Tuesday that a sanctions bill targeting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could come in the "not too distant future," the US think tank noted on its stratfor.com website.
Perry was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying on Tuesday: “The United States Senate is going to pass a bill, the House is going to approve it, and it’s going to go to the President and he’s going to sign it.”
Stratfor noted on its website that Perry’s statement came after four US senators on May 15 introduced a bipartisan bill known as the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act, aimed at obstructing the pipeline between Germany and Russia.
If signed into law, the bill would impose financial and travel sanctions against any pipe-laying vessels involved in constructing Russian offshore energy export pipelines, including individuals and companies that facilitate the use of such vessels, the US think tank said.
It quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in response to Perry's statement that the project would still be completed "for the benefit of European [gas] consumers" despite US sanctions.
But if fully imposed, such sanctions against pipe-laying vessels could potentially be a death sentence for Nord Stream 2, as there are only a few companies that have access to such vessels, the US think tank said on its stratfor.com website.
It added that, following delays in obtaining permits, it was unlikely that the pipeline would be ready to enter service by the end of this year, per the original timeline.
Poland’s Gazeta Polska Codziennie daily reported on Monday that four US senators have proposed new rules to allow financial and visa penalties to be imposed by America on companies and people involved in building Nord Stream 2.
US Vice President Mike Pence warned earlier this year that America “cannot ensure the defence of the West” if its allies grow dependent on Moscow as a result of projects such as Nord Stream 2.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last May that Nord Stream 2 was “a new hybrid weapon” aimed at the European Union and NATO.