The United States is expanding sanctions against Russian projects for the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream gas pipelines. According to the US State Department, "Russia is using its pipelines to create national and regional dependence on its supplies, and Moscow is expanding its political, economic and military influence, which weakening European security."
The US State Department has published explanations of the current sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. The document concerns sanctions against foreign persons and companies that deliberately "provide their ships for the construction of the project." This formulation was adopted last year in the European Energy Security Protection Act (PEESA).
Previously, it was believed that only companies that provide their ships directly for the construction of Nord Stream 2, such as Allseas, which withdrew their ships in January 2020 after the imposition of sanctions, could fall under such sanctions.
The Department of State has now broadened its interpretation of the words "ship provision," saying that companies that provide various services to ships (for example, conversion or modernization services, and funding for such activities) will now be targeted. The Department of State has given such companies 30 days, starting October 20, to cease any such activity in good faith. It is assumed that companies that provided such services before October 20, but no longer provide, will not be punished.
"The US State Department and the US Treasury Department intend to use the entire range of sanctions to stop the construction of Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream and their possible continuation," the statement said. The State Department's new interpretation covers some of the sanctions proposed by Congressmen in the PEESCA bill that is currently under discussion in Congress.
The BGNES news agency reminds us that at the beginning of October, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Francis Fannon visited Bulgaria, and also met with the Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova. Then Fannon made it clear that the US sanctions will also affect the continuation of the Russian TurkStream gas pipeline in Bulgaria. He noted that the fact that the Bulgarian government calls it "Balkan Stream" and claims that it is part of Bulgaria's gas infrastructure does not change the essence of the project.
“I understand that the gas pipeline is called differently, but, in our opinion, this does not change the fact that Russia is using it as its tool. It’s one and the same. The US sanctions legislation has been in existence for several years and has been updated. Pompeo's proposal in July is aimed at preventing energy assets from being used for influence,” Fannon noted.
The construction of the TurkStream pipeline was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ankara in December 2014. The project replaced the unrealized South Stream project, which was supposed to pass through Bulgaria, but did not meet the requirements of the Third Energy Package of the European Union.
TurkStream consists of two lines connecting Russia and Turkey along the bottom of the Black Sea. The total capacity of TurkStream is 31.5 billion cubic meters (15.75 billion cubic meters each). The first line was put into operation at a ceremony in Istanbul on January 8 this year. The launch was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, and Serbian leader Alexander Vucic.
The second TurkStream pipeline is to pass through Bulgaria and will supply natural gas to Serbia and Hungary. In Bulgaria, the pipe is called the "Balkan Stream". Its construction has been delayed, including due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington has always opposed the construction of TurkStream. Two days after the pipeline went into operation, on January 10, 2020, the United States gave a clear signal that it was opposed to extending the pipeline to the EU via Bulgaria. The United States opposes the second string of the TurkStream gas pipeline to supply gas to Southeast Europe via Bulgaria because it views it as a geostrategic project for Russia, said then-US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, the third person in the US State Department.
“We recognize that energy security is very important for Europe, and we understand that when our allies have secure access to energy sources, they become stronger and more reliable,” he said. “The problem is that Moscow thinks differently. Moscow is using its energy sources as a political tool for influencing and dividing Europe. Nord Stream 2 and the second string of TurkStream are a problem because they do not provide energy diversification in Europe. They will destabilize Ukraine because they will give Russia the opportunity to bypass pipelines on the territory of Ukraine.”
Russia itself has repeatedly stated that the second section of the Turkish Stream is being built primarily to support Russia's ally in the Balkans, Serbia.