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Germany Reacts To U.S. Sanctions On Gas Pipeline


To other news now - Congress had voted to impose sanctions on companies involved in the construction of what's known as Nord Stream 2. This is a pipeline carrying Russian natural gas to Germany. President Trump said he'd sign the bill immediately into law as soon as it reaches his desk. As NPR's Rob Schmitz reports, Germany has reacted strongly to these sanctions.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has condemned the U.S. sanctions on the pipeline, saying in an emailed statement, European energy policy is decided in Europe not the United States. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, scheduled to be completed in 2020, will have the capacity to carry nearly half of Germany's natural gas imports per year in a 750-mile pipeline underneath the Baltic Sea.

MATTHIAS LANG: If you need the gas, it has to come from somewhere.

SCHMITZ: Matthias Lang is an energy law partner at Bird & Bird in Dusseldorf. The first Nord Stream pipeline travels to Germany through Ukraine, and Ukraine makes billions in transit revenue off of it. One fear the U.S. has is that once Nord Stream 2 is completed in a pipeline that bypasses Ukraine, Kyiv could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail at a time when Russia and Ukraine are at war. The U.S. also worries the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would make Germany too dependent on Russia. Lang says that concern rings hollow.

LANG: The supply has been very reliable from Russia over many years, over many crises around the world. And it has not been used as a political weapon, neither against Germany nor other Western European countries.

SCHMITZ: U.S. sanctions against companies constructing Nord Stream 2 may not even work, says Lang. After President Trump is expected to sign them into law later this week, his administration has 60 days to identify target companies. And then those companies will have an additional 30 days to wind down their operations. By then, says Lang, the pipeline could very well be finished.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF THRUPENCE'S "FOREST ON THE SUN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.