The Corner

National Security & Defense

Sanctions, Russia and Nord Stream 2

He may not be entirely happy about it, but (as Alexandra noted earlier) President Trump has signed into law new sanctions legislation directed at Russia, North Korea and Iran.

In terms of relations with the EU—and specifically Germany—it’s worth noting this ( via Reuters):

Several provisions of the sanctions target the Russian energy sector, with new limits on U.S. investment in Russian companies. American companies also would be barred from participating in energy exploration projects where Russian firms have a stake of 33 percent or higher. The legislation includes sanctions on foreign companies investing in or helping Russian energy exploration, although the president could waive those sanctions.

It would give the Trump administration the option of imposing sanctions on companies helping develop Russian export pipelines, such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying natural gas to Europe, in which German companies are involved.

Nord Stream 2?

The New York Times: (my emphasis added)

But the new sanctions have important implications for Europe because they target any company that contributes to the development, maintenance or modernization of Russia’s energy export pipelines. That would almost surely affect a controversial pipeline project between Russia and Germany known as Nord Stream 2, which is owned by Gazprom but includes financial stakes from European companies. The project aims to carry Russian natural gas under the Baltic Sea, bypassing countries like Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic States.

How convenient.

Nord Stream 2 is important for Germany. But it has been fiercely criticized by central and eastern Europeans. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council and a former Polish prime minister, is a vocal critic of the pipeline, urging strict regulation of a project he has said would strengthen Moscow.

Writing for CEPA, Edward Lucas:

Sadly, the European Commission has been unable to find a legal means of stopping Nord Stream 2. Just as sadly, the German government has put business relations with Russia ahead of its allies’ interests.

This is strange behavior from the leader of the free world/defender of liberal values/last great hope Angela Merkel. It’s almost as if some of the things that have been written about her are not, well, true.

Radio Free Europe:

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned last week that Germany will not tolerate sanctions against European companies involved in the Nord Stream project. Some German business groups are advocating countersanctions against the United States if Trump decides to impose sanctions on European companies. U.S. lawmakers had modified the bill after initial complaints by European leaders that it was too harmful to companies working with Russia on Nord Stream.

The EU’s governing elite has spent quite a bit of time recently fretting about America’s commitment to NATO (on that topic, I hope they were paying attention to what Mike Pence said this week in Estonia: “Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defense — an attack on one of us is an attack on us all” ) but they would do well also to question the extent to which NATO can rely on Germany.


Luckily, Washington sees the danger [surrounding Nord Stream 2] and is applying pressure. The administration is not acting unilaterally. As Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary-general of NATO, noted in the Financial Times, the sanctions bill’s energy measures are not automatic but are applied only at the president’s discretion. Its language explicitly stresses coordination and unity with allies.

Europeans like lamenting a lack of American leadership under the Trump administration. They should try seeming a bit more grateful when it actually happens