- Politicians in Berlin have reacted furiously to a letter from three Republican senators threatening sanctions on a small German port.
- Sens. Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Ron Johnson last week threatened the Mukran port with sanctions for its role in helping Russian vessels develop a major gas pipeline into Germany.
- President Donald Trump’s administration opposes the project, named Nord Stream 2, over concerns that Germany is too reliant on gas from Russia and that Moscow is expanding its economic influence in Europe.
- The letter threatened “crushing legal and economic sanctions” against the port if it did not “cease” to assist Russian vessels constructing Nord Stream 2.
- A minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government called the senators’ threat “completely outrageous.”
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The US’s relationship with Germany is under increased strain after politicians in Berlin reacted angrily to a letter from three Republican senators threatening “crushing” sanctions against a small port for helping Russian ships build a gas pipeline.
Sens. Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Ron Johnson last week wrote to Faehrhafen Sassnitz, the operators of the Mukran port in the German seaside town of Sassnitz, threatening “crushing legal and economic sanctions” if it did not stop assisting Russian vessels that were building Nord Stream 2.
President Donald Trump’s administration opposes the pipeline over concerns that Germany is already too reliant on Moscow for natural gas and that it would allow Russia to expand its economic influence in Europe. In 2018, Trump said it could turn Germany into a “hostage of Russia,” according to the BBC.
On this particular disagreement with Berlin, he is backed by several Democrats as well as European countries like Poland and Slovakia.
Once completed, Nord Stream 2 is set to be 1,230 kilometers long, or 764 miles, carrying natural gas from Russia to northern Germany. It is designed to double the capacity of Nord Stream, an existing pipeline built nearly a decade ago, according to The Washington Post.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Nord Stream 2 could open late this year.
The letter, which was cited by Deutsche Welle, said the port operators were “knowingly providing significant goods, services, and support” to Russian ships developing the pipeline. The letter told the port operators to “cease activities” or face “potentially fatal measures” like having commercial ties with the US severed.
Niels Annen, a minister of state in Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, has called the letter “completely outrageous.”
He told the German broadcaster ZDF last Friday: “Threatening a close friend and ally with sanctions, and using that kind of language, will not work … European energy policy will be decided in Brussels, and not in Washington, DC.”
Manuela Schwesig, minister-premier of the state where the port is based, described the letter as “blackmail,” while Jürgen Trittin, a prominent Green member of the Bundestag, said it was a “declaration of economic war,” Politico reported Tuesday.
The Mukran port, located on the German island of Rügen, stores sections of the cross-continent pipeline and is a service centre for Russian vessels constructing Nord Stream 2, according to Deutsche Welle.
Cruz and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen last week announced a bill designed to expand sanctions to parties providing assistance with the Nord Stream 2 project.
Cruz said the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act, which must be approved by Congress and signed by Trump to become law, “makes clear those involved with vessels installing the pipeline will face crippling and immediate sanctions,”Reuters reported.
The clash over Nord Stream 2 comes amid growing tension between Washington and Berlin.
Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, recently told Business Insider that “shortcomings” in Germany’s relationship with the US meant that working with the Trump administration had become “not easy.”
“With all the shortcomings in terms of information policy, and things being decided without consultation, this untidiness that has crept into the relationship is something that worries us,” he said.
Merkel’s government has also reacted furiously to Trump’s recent announcement of plans to withdraw nearly 12,000 US troops from Germany.
Johann Wadephul, a senior figure in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, said last month: “We expect our leading ally to act as a model, with orientation and balance – not maximum pressure. You don’t treat partners like this.”
Peter Beyer, Germany’s Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation, also said it was “completely unacceptable.”
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