Washington, Feb 23 (EFE).- The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and intensified its collaboration with the European Union (EU) in further retaliation against Moscow.
The sanctions are the latest punishment that Washington and its allies have imposed on the Kremlin after it recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, and ordered in Russian troops.
“Today, I have directed my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
“These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate.”
The sanctions specifically target Nord Stream 2 AG and its German chief executive officer, Matthias Warnig.
The company is registered in Switzerland and its majority shareholder is the Russian energy giant Gazprom, although it has also signed financing agreements with the German companies Wintershall Dea and Uniper, the French Engie, the Austrian OMV and the British Shell.
The White House has not clarified whether the sanctions are only directed against Gazprom, which had previously been sanctioned by Washington, or whether other European companies will also be affected.
For years, the US opposed construction of Nord Stream 2 on the grounds that it would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, but last year Biden allowed the project to be completed by lifting sanctions he reimposed on Wednesday.
Washington’s action comes after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Tuesday the suspension of the gas pipeline certification.
Nord Stream 2 was built with the aim of transporting Russian gas directly to Germany without going through Ukraine, which deprived that country of an important source of income.
Scholz’s decision and the reimposition of sanctions by Biden have caused alarm in some European countries, which foresee an increase in natural gas prices.
Currently, the EU buys 41 percent of its natural gas from Russia and also depends on the country for crude oil, according to Eurostat data.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Washington hasn’t ruled out releasing more oil from its strategic reserves to respond to an escalation in energy prices.
Washington is especially coordinating with the EU in a strategy aimed at “deterring” Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to avoid a war, Psaki said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell held a phone call on Wednesday in which Blinken “reaffirmed the readiness of the United States, in coordination with the EU and other partners, to impose additional powerful sanctions.”
Borrell wrote on Twitter: “We are prepared to answer to potential next steps with further severe measures. The EU and the U.S. stand united.”
Actions that Washington is considering is the imposition of restrictions on the export of American memory chips to Russia, and the exclusion of Russia from the Swift transaction consortium.
Wednesday’s sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG come after the economic punishment that the US imposed on two Russian banks, their sovereign debt and members of their elite. EFE