July 16, 2018, by Elena Mazneva
U.S. President Donald Trump eased his tone about a Russian natural gas pipeline to Germany after a one-on-one meeting with President Vladimir Putin, shifting from the harsh criticism he’d levied in Europe last week.
“We are going to be selling LNG and will have to be competing with the pipeline and I think we’ll compete successfully,” Trump told reporters at a press conference with Putin after their meeting in Helsinki on Monday. “I’m not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interest of Germany or not but that was the decision that they made.”
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would double Russia’s current capacity to deliver natural gas direct to Germany under the Baltic Sea and circumvent Ukraine, a major supply route to the European Union, has been a sore point between the U.S. and its allies over the past months. Last week, Trump slammed what he called German dependence on Russian energy, saying it made the nation “captive” to Moscow. The Kremlin said Trump’s attacks were economically motivated, in an attempt to promote the U.S. liquefied natural gas in Europe.
Trump last year signed a law giving him the right to sanction companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BASF SE’s Wintershall unit, Uniper SE, OMV AG and Engie SA have agreed to provide Russia’s Gazprom PJSC with financing for the 9.5 billion euro ($11 billion) pipeline and could be at risk of penalties.
Putin said he sees space for cooperation with the U.S. on energy, while saying Russia may be willing to extend gas transit accords with Ukraine if the two nations’ state companies can resolve legal disputes about fees and pricing.
Gazprom is Europe’s largest gas supplier and provides more than a third of the region’s needs in the fuel. Its Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller confirmed in June its plan to start laying the pipes in the next couple of months and to open the Nord Stream 2 link by late-2019. The project would cut Russia’s dependence on Ukraine and help meet additional demand for the fuel in the EU in next two decades as local production falls.
Meanwhile, Russia is unperturbed by the prospect of American LNG supplies to Europe. They “will never catch up with and will never surpass” Russian gas exports to the region, Miller said in June.