The US administration is aiming for talks with Germany and other European Union members over potential further sanctions against Nord Stream 2, with US President Joe Biden remaining opposed to the controversial Russian gas pipeline project.
The under-development scheme — led by Russian state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom and which aims to export gas to Germany — has already been hit with sanctions by the US.
Speaking on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that “sanctions [against Nord Stream 2 and its contractors] are only one among many important tools to ensure energy security".
Psaki added that Washington "will do this all in partnership with our allies and partners”.
“Our position has not changed. President Biden has made clear that Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal. It divides Europe, it exposes Ukraine and Central Europe to Russian manipulation and it goes against Europe’s own stated energy and security goals," she said.
Psaki was responding to a question on Nord Stream 2 that followed recent reports in German media on alleged talks between the White House, German federal authorities and EU representatives on the potential softening of Washington's stance against the project.
A spokesperson for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs & Energy told Russian state news agency Tass that any talks or dialogue between the German government and its foreign partners on various issues, including Nord Stream 2, are “confidential”.
“We are continuing to monitor activity to complete or to certify the pipeline. If such activity takes place, we will make a determination of the applicability of sanctions,” Psaki said.
The US earlier put Russian pipelaying barge Fortuna — which had resumed the laying of an unfinished segment of Nord Stream 2 in Denmark’s Baltic Sea waters — on its sanctions list.
An updated list of companies that are thought to be attempting to circumvent sanctions against the Russian pipeline project is expected to be presented to US lawmakers before the end of this week.
Pipelay speed slow
According to marine traffic services, Fortuna has since the end of January remained near the offshore construction site where pipelay work was halted in December 2019, south of the Danish island of Bornholm.
Based on the records of its movement, Fortuna may have laid only about 1.6 kilometres of the 49-kilometre pipeline segment that operator Nord Stream 2 told Danish Maritime Authority was due to be completed in the Danish sector.
The operator has not commented on the anticipated timeframe for the completion of this segment or answered queries on the perceived slow pace of the pipelay job.
However, it acknowledged that Fortuna had to interrupt pipelay work for several days after strong winds on 9 February.
Nord Stream 2 has not yet filed any notice to Danish authorities on whether and when it will involve another pipelay vessel — Akademik Chersky, currently moored in the German port of Wismar — in construction of the second segment of the pipeline in Danish waters.