Here is the link to the Financial Times article of 2 July 2020. (pay wall likely). However, a plain-text version is also below, at the end of this post (for which I beg the FT’s indulgence).
Comment on deteriorating US-German relations over the Nord Stream 2 project
As my brief FT quote indicates, the new PEESA Clarification Act sanctions now before Congress are intended to be so severe as to convince German officials to abandon any further attempts to complete the pipeline with Russia, killing it permanently.
This is essentially an ultimatum, which, as such, will of course be taken badly by the German side. However, German leaders’ and experts’ widely held perceptions that these sanctions are motivated primarily from the mercantilist and transactional approach to US-German relations touted by Trump — such as demands to purchase US LNG — are sorely missing the message emanating from Congress, and not least because US opposition to these projects long predates its shale gas revolution and emergence as an LNG-exporting country.
These sanctions are not flowing from Trump’s complaints against Germany. In fact, this will be the third time Congress, on a bipartisan basis, has imposed sanctions on Russian interests contrary to Trump’s wishes.
The first instance was the codification into law of President Obama’s executive sanctions on Russia, which Obama had imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. These were made into a law in June 2017 which passed with so many votes that Trump could not veto the bill. This was done precisely because Trump was not trusted to keep in place Obama’s sanctions, considering Trump’s demonstrated affinity for Putin.
These 2017 measures also gave Trump presidential authority to sanction Nord Stream 2; however he refused to do so. Therefore, Congress imposed mandatory sanctions on Nord Stream 2 in December 2019, known as the PEESA act, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019. These were the sanctions which had the effect of immediately halting construction of the pipeline.
However, in response, both the Russian and German governments have repeatedly made clear their resolve to complete construction regardless of these 2019 sanctions. And, once again, since Trump refuses to take further action to stop the pipeline’s construction, Congress is expect to soon enact the very severe PEESA Clarifications Act presently under consideration.
In short, US congressional sanctioning of Nord Stream 2 construction cannot be seen as simply a product of Trump’s presidency, of his nationalist-mercantalist bombast against Chancellor Merkel et al. Although various members have a range of motivations, overall these sanctions reflect a long-evolving bipartisan resolve within Congress that this pipeline project, contrary to the objections of the German government, is harmful to the energy security of Europe. Russia’s unrelenting cyber, military, assassination, election-interference and propaganda outrages only increases the sense of urgency in Congress.
It should be noted that this is a position supported by many other European allies, who also disagree with Berlin on this matter, and have actively fought to block or, with some successes, hinder the project via legal and political channels within the European Union.