Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier accused Washington of seeking to block the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany to shore up its own exports, Reuters reported.
The statement comes after the U.S. warned that the project may be subject to sanctions by Washington. On Thursday, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Sandra Oudkirk, an energy policy expert at the State Department, said on a visit to Berlin that the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and could impose sanctions on it because of its potential to increase Russia’s “malign influence” in Europe.
Altmaier, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, defended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is also strongly opposed by many East European countries who say that by circumventing Ukraine the pipeline will increase Europe’s dependence on Moscow’s energy sales.
Ahead of a summit due later on Friday between Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Altmaier said the European Union should guarantee that Ukraine will continue to receive gas transit fees, even after the pipeline is built under the Baltic.
But he accused Washington of wanting to block the pipeline, built by Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom and a consortium of European energy companies, in order to boost its own shale gas exports.
“They are looking for markets, which we can understand, and they can land it here easily,” he said. “But it is much more expensive than pipeline gas, and blocking Nord Stream 2 on its own won’t guarantee exports.”
Altmaier added that Europe would respond firmly to U.S. attempts to place its own economic interests before those of partners. “The U.S. is our friends and partners, and we want to defend our common values. But if it’s America first, and they put their economic interest before others, then they have to expect Europe to define their own interests and fight for them,” he said.
Germany already relies heavily on Russian gas and so far Chancellor Angela Merkel has deftly kept the new $11 billion pipeline off the table while imposing sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.