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European companies back out of Nord Stream 2: US report

February 23, 2021

Eighteen companies have terminated their participation or are in the process of withdrawing, following US sanctions threats. The US has only imposed sanctions on one company, but has threatened to "take further action."

Russia's pipe-laying ship "Fortuna" is seen in the port ahead of the resumption of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline construction, in Wismar, Germany.
So far, only the company operating this pipe-laying ship has faced US sanctionsImage: Dmitrij Leltschuk/Sputnik/dpa/picture alliance

At least 18 European companies have either terminated their participation in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline or have pledged to withdraw from the project over threats of US sanctions, according to a US State Department report for Congress.

"This shows that the legislative goals and our actions have been successful," said Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department. "We continue to monitor companies involved in potentially sanctionable acts."

The State Department submitted a report on the pipeline to Congress on Friday, in a document which has not yet been publicly released.

The US has threatened sanctions against several other companies involved in the construction and certification of the roughly 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

Germany: Conflicts over Nord Stream 2 reignited

So far, however, the US has only imposed sanctions on the Russian company KVT-RUS, which owns the Russian pipe-laying vessel Fortuna.

US allies should "not be surprised" if the administration takes further action, Price said. Work on the pipeline had resumed in December after being suspended for nearly a year as a result of US sanctions. Construction between Russia and Germany is now almost complete.

German, Swiss, British firms back out

Most of the companies terminating their participation are insurance companies, the majority of which are based in the United Kingdom.

Among them are Munich-based insurer Munich Re Syndicate Limited and Switzerland-based Zurich Insurance Group. Axa Group, based in Paris, and civil engineering group Bilfinger of Mannheim have also terminated their involvement, according to the US State Department.

Washington is strongly opposed to Nord Stream 2, arguing that the pipeline will create too much European dependence on Russian energy supplies. Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have voiced objection to the project.

France and several other European countries have also been critical of the project. However, the German government hasmaintained its commitment to the pipeline's completion, despite criticism and pressure to cancel the project over the Russian government's crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his supporters.

lc/msh (AFP, dpa)