Tag: Washington

German foreign minister warns New START and INF Treaties termination will affect Europe

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP

The termination of the Treaties on missile armament cuts and liquidation will affect Europe’s security, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday.

Germany’s top diplomat made this statement after a meeting with experts of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Nuclear Weapons Cuts from Russia, the United States and Germany.

“The possible termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the non-prolongation of the New START Treaty [the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms] are what will eventually threaten Europe, in the first place,” Gabriel said.

The German foreign minister also said he shared the experts’ opinion that “the worst Cold War mistakes are repeated” and the world is at the stage of “Cold War 2.0.”

According to him, European countries should become active participants in the disarmament discussion.

“Germany should speak more actively with the United States, with Russia about this within the NATO framework,” the foreign minister said.

At the same time, Social Democrat Gabriel again lashed at the Conservatives in the German government who advocated a sharp increase in defense spending.

“In this regard, it is more important to double the efficiency of expenditures rather than their volume,” he said.

“I expect that the political leadership in [the Christian Democratic/Christian Social] Union won’t yield to the militarist logic [of US President Donald Trump] and this is what exactly is taking place now,” the German foreign minister said, noting that such policy could become a problem for Berlin.

 

 

 

 

Guam, Japan prepare for possible North Korea missile launch

SANTA RITA, Guam. An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam. Naval Base Guam supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hagatña, Guam (CNN) North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the US-territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.

In a statement last week, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, said the plan to fire “four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets … to signal a crucial warning to the US” would be ready by “mid-August.”

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

A notice put out by Guam’s Joint Information Center Saturday warned residents how to prepare “for an imminent missile threat.”

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the note said. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”

Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.

Japan missile defense deployed

On Saturday, some of Japan’s land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors began arriving at Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) bases in three of the four prefectures any North Korean missiles would likely fly over en route to Guam.

Pyongyang identified three of those areas — Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures — in its statement last week.

A spokesman for SDF said the missiles were being deployed not to intercept missiles, but rather “just in case.” He did not elaborate.

Sim Tack, a senior analyst for private intelligence firm Stratfor, said the Japanese batteries are designed for protecting the area where they are deployed, “(they are) not meant to shoot missiles out of the sky as they pass over Japan at high altitude.”

“So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn’t have a function to serve in this particular case,” he said.
Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense Scenario

The SDF spokesman said the country’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system was deployed in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but would not give a specific location.

Aegis is able to track 100 missiles simultaneously and fire interceptors to take out an enemy’s ballistic projectiles.

In South Korea, where both the military and civilians are used to facing threats from North Korea, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned the country’s armed forces “to maintain full readiness” to “immediately punish with powerful force” any action against the South.

“Recently, North Korea made its habitual absurd remarks that it will turn Seoul into a sea of fire and that it will strike near Guam,” Song said according to ministry official. “North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the international community.”

Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month. The annual exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, are expected to run from August 21 to 31.

Calls for calm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders have called for calm as both Pyongyang and Washington upped their saber-rattling rhetoric.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled down on his statement that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued its threats, saying in a tweet that “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against North Korea.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xi told Trump in a call between the two leaders Saturday all “relevant parties parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described escalation as “the wrong answer,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump’s statements were “very worrying.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English criticized Trump’s “fire and fury” comments as “not helpful in an environment that’s very tense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to work with North Korea to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions,” following a call with Trump Saturday.

Washington has previously said it will consider talks with Pyongyang if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program, a pre-condition North Korean officials have described as a non-starter.

Guam waits for news

At a church in central Guam Sunday, parishioners sang “Lord, we pray for world peace” after discussing the potential North Korean threat.

“There’s a lot of disbelief going on, there’s a lot of anxiety,” Father Paul Gofigan told CNN after the mass.

Gofigan said there is not a lot of panic in Guam, and that people’s faith — the island has been overwhelmingly Catholic since the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 17th century– has been on display in recent days.

“Faith is so deeply rooted into our culture,” he said.

The territory’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and the President’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Saturday.

“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote on Facebook. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”

As an unincorporated US territory, citizens of Guam cannot vote in general elections. The island is also home to a large US military presence, a fact that has led to tension with some local residents, particularly those of the indigenous Chamorro community.

“Nobody really deserves to be caught in the middle of these games,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an activist who campaigns for a lowered military presence.

“You’re playing with people’s lives. We just want peace, we just want to continue to enjoy our lives here.”

 

US-Russia relations may deteriorate further — Tillerson

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Russian-US relations are at their historic low and may deteriorate further, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.

“As I indicated in my first trip to Moscow in meetings at the Kremlin with President Putin, following those meetings, the relationship was at a historic low since the end of the Cold War, and it could get worse,” he told reporters.

“And the question, I think, of the events of the last week or so, is it getting worse or can we maintain some level of stability in that relationship, and continue to find ways to address areas of mutual interest and ways in which we can deal with our differences without those becoming open conflicts, as well?” the US top diplomat added.

He named fight against terrorism as “one area of mutual interest.”

“We’ve chosen the theater in Syria as a place in which we test our ability to work together. We share the common view of ISIS (an extremist group, outlawed in Russia – TASS) as a threat to both of our countries and so we are committed to the defeat of ISIS, Daesh, other terrorists organizations,” Tillerson said.

Speaking about the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the US Secretary of State called for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, saying that this issue was directly related to easing and eventually lifting the sanctions against Moscow.

“In the Ukraine, we have been very consistent in our messages to Russia,” Tillerson said, adding that the Minsk Accords “must be achieved, they must be implemented, otherwise nothing can be done about the sanction situation in Ukraine.”

 

 

 

Kremlin concerned over expansion of alliances rather than neighbors’ relations with U.S.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Credit: Sergey Guneev.

Moscow respects its neighboring countries’ relations with the United States but is concerned over the expansion of military infrastructure towards the Russian borders, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

While commenting on the US Vice President Michael Pence’s visit to the Baltic States and Georgia, Peskov said that the countries in question are independent states having the right to develop relations with other countries as they wished. “There is no issue [for Russia] in that, and there can never be,” he added.

“Such cooperation only becomes a problem for us when it leads to the expansion of various alliances and their military infrastructure towards our borders,” the Russian presidential spokesman went on to say. “This is what causes us concern. We certainly respect our neighboring countries’ relations with the United States, as well as with other countries,” Peskov said.

When asked to comment on Pence’s statement in which he said that Moscow’s decision to reduce the US diplomatic staff would not deter Washington’s commitment to its security and the security of its allies, Peskov stressed that “this decision [to reduce the staff at the US diplomatic missions in Russia – TASS] has nothing to do with security.” “This is why I would refrain from commenting the US vice president’s statement, I don’t see the connection,” the Kremlin spokesman noted.

 

 

 

Putin expels 755 diplomats in response to US sanctions

(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that 755 U.S. diplomats will be expelled from Russia by Sept. 1, according to an interview on Russian television.

The expulsions had been announced Friday in response to a new law passed in Congress that expanded sanctions, but Sunday’s statement was the first time a large number of Americans were confirmed as involved.

It was “a regrettable and uncalled for act,” a State Department official told The Associated Press. Earlier, a State Department official told Fox News, “It is our policy to not comment on the number of individuals serving at our missions abroad.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455.

“I decided it is time for us to show: We do not intend to leave U.S. actions unanswered,” said Putin, according to Interfax News Agency.

The U.S. has taken an “unprovoked step towards worsening bilateral relations,” Putin added.

He also said that Russia could consider other options in response to the U.S., but that he hoped it would not come down to that.
Putin noted the recent creation of a de-escalation zone in southern Syria as one example of how the countries have worked together.

However, in terms of general relations, Putin said: “We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better. But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it’s not for anytime soon.”

The new American sanctions were in retaliation both for Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014 and Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: FOX News.

US sanctions against Russia are ‘illegal’ says Putin in Finland [VIDEO] In Russian with English Text

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the proposed US sanctions against Russia violate international law, speaking at a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Savonlinna, yesterday.

“Sanctions are illegal from the point of view of international law, they violate the principle of international trade by World Trade Organization,” Putin said, adding that Russia “is very patient now, but at some point we will have to answer to this.”

Putin is on an official visit in Finland to mark the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence. Later on the day Putin and Niinisto will attend an opera production from the Bolshoi Theatre at the Olavinlinna Castle.

President Sauli Niinistö and President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin, Russian President (Russian):

“I don’t consider it as an investigation. The investigation implies getting the full consequences and studying the reasons, listening to different sides. All we see now is the increase of anti-Russian hysteria, most probably they are using Russophobia in an internal political fight, in this case the fight between President Trump and his opponents inside the United States.”

“It is a pity that Russia – Our relationships are being sacrificed for solving issues inside the US. Do I regret the worsening of relations with the US? I can answer directly. Of course, we deeply regret it.”

“When we are talking about the borders of US legislation, I should say, I have been talking about it for a long time, since 2007 in Munich, I think. That is exactly what I said. This practice is not acceptable; it destroys international relationships and international law. We have never agreed on that, and never will agree on that. And it depends on other states’ sovereignty and readiness to protect their own interests, how they react on that themselves.”

“If the same will happen in this case, it will be even more regretful, since it will be aggravated action and especially cynical, as I would say.”

“It is a clear attempt to use the geopolitical advantages in competitive fight with the goal to serve its economic interests at the expense of its partners.”

“We can see that we have been constantly provoked during the last few years. A lot of our diplomats have been expelled with no reason. Diplomatic property has been taken away, which is unthinkable as it contradicts the basic norm of international law in diplomatic relationships.”

“Sanctions are illegal from the point of view of international law, they violate the principle of international trade by World Trade Organization. As you know we are being very patient now, but at some point we will have to answer this. It is impossible to endlessly accept the rudeness directed at our country.”

“In any case, regardless of what is happening now, we will have to achieve some elements of cooperation and agreements.”

North Korea fires ballistic missile toward Japan

North Korea fired a ballistic missile Friday night that may have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tells reporters that he had called a meeting of his National Security Council, the Associated Press reports.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says North Korea launched the missile at 11:42 PM on Friday, Japan’s national public broadcaster NHK reports.

Suga says the missile is believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone 45 minutes after launch.

The zone extends about 230 miles from Japan’s coast.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, confirmed that a launch of a ballistic missile from North Korea had been detected.

He said, “We are assessing and will have more information soon.”

Japanese government sources tell NHK that warnings were issued to vessels in the zone shortly after the launch was detected.

Source: USA Today.

U.S. general: North Korea ICBM threat advancing faster than expected


U.S. Army General Mark Milley testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to become the Army’s chief of staff, on Capitol Hill in Washington July 21, 2015.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. General Mark Milley, the chief of staff of the Army, said on Thursday that North Korea’s July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile showed its capabilities were advancing significantly and faster than many had expected.

Milley, in remarks to the National Press Club in Washington, said there was still time for a non-military solution to the crisis caused by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, but cautioned that “time is running out.”

“North Korea is extremely dangerous and more dangerous as the weeks go by,” he said.

U.S. media reported this week that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon spy agency, had assessed that North Korea would be able to field a nuclear-capable ICBM by next year, earlier than previously thought.

However, two U.S. officials said some other analysts who study North Korea’s missile program did not agree with the assessment, although there was no question that Pyongyang had moved further and faster in its efforts.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday they had seen increased North Korean activity that could be preparations for another missile test within days.

After its July 4 test, North Korea said it had mastered the technology needed to deploy a nuclear warhead via the missile. It also said the test verified the atmospheric re-entry of the warhead, which experts say may be able to reach the U.S. state of Alaska.

North Korea has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States and has ignored international calls to halt its weapons programs.

The vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, said last week that North Korea did not have the ability to strike the United States with “any degree of accuracy” and that while its missiles had the range, they lacked the necessary guidance capability.

Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Grant McCool.

Source: Reuters.

Defying Trump, Putin puts North Korea ties before missile threat

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) – In retrospect, said Vladimir Bogdanov, it was not the best time to start the first passenger-ship service between Russia and North Korea shortly before Kim Jong Un shocked the world by announcing he’s successfully tested a missile capable of striking the US mainland.

“We were in a hurry, thinking we’d be too late. We should have slowed down,” said Bogdanov, who’s organised nine trips since May between Russia’s far east port of Vladivostok and Rajin in North Korea’s Rason special economic zone.

“Still, there’s no turning back” for the service, which is loss-making so far after filling at best a quarter of its 193 places each time, he said.

The North Korean ferry, the Mangyongbong, is docked in the port of the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Russia, May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev.

Economic ties between Russia and North Korea, which share a narrow land border, are similarly beleaguered, with trade down for a third year to just US$77 million (S$105 million) in 2016, according to the Russian customs service.

While the volume is small, it’s becoming a point of tension between President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump, who’s pressing Russia and other powers to ramp up opposition to the Communist regime’s nuclear-missile programme. Russia regards the trade relationship as a means to safeguard its position with Kim in diplomacy to try to defuse the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Choe Ryong-hae in Moscow in November 2016.

“We can’t afford to argue with North Korea because it will completely cast Russia to the sidelines,” said Georgy Toloraya, head of the Russian Academy of Science’s Center for Asian Strategy.

“Our interests will not be considered” if North Korea sees Russia siding with the U.S., he said.

Just as with Iran, when Russia maintained ties amid U.S. and European Union pressure on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, Putin’s unwilling to isolate North Korea completely. He opposes tougher sanctions because he believes they won’t affect the North Korean leadership, said two senior Kremlin officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal policy.

The U.S. is pressing Russia to end a programme for taking 30,000 to 50,000 North Korean migrant workers, in order to “deprive Kim Jong Un of all his money,” Toloraya said.

“This is what they demand from Russia right now, very actively.”

Any country that hosts North Korean workers “is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime” that’s “a global threat,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after Kim announced the successful missile test on July 4. Some US officials say it could conduct another missile test to mark the July 27 anniversary of the end of Korean War.

“Russia has never been a supporter of dialogue by sanctions,” which is a “futile approach,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in April. That position hasn’t changed after Putin and Trump met at this month’s Group of 20 summit, he said.

US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB/Getty Images.

While Trump and Putin had “a pretty good exchange on North Korea,” they differ in tactics and pace for dealing with the threat, Tillerson said after the Hamburg talks.

Russia, China Russia and China, which is North Korea’s closest ally and accounted for nearly 90 per cent of its US$6 billion trade last year, urged restraint and renewed dialogue in a joint statement after the missile test. Kim boasted he’d send more “gifts” to the U.S., which held joint drills with South Korea in response.

Russia and China blocked US-led efforts to expand penalties against North Korea in a draft United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the missile test. While Trump has accused China of doing too little to pressure its neighbor, officials in Beijing said they’ve been “strictly abiding” by UN sanctions and that imports from North Korea fell 13.2 per cent to US$880 million in the first six months of 2017 compared to a year earlier.

“No one has any real leverage on North Korea to convince them to give up nuclear weapons, including the Chinese,” Alexander Gabuev of the Moscow Carnegie Center said. Kim’s regime may earn US$30-US$50 million a year from the migrant workers, who labor in remote Russian forest camps or on construction sites, he said.

DPRK-Russia-trade-2015.

Russian imports from North Korea slumped to just US$421,000 in the first quarter of 2017 from the same period last year, while exports, mainly of foodstuffs and fuel, more than doubled to US$31.4 million, according to customs service data.

Nobody knows the real level of trade since many goods go via third countries, though it may be worth $500 million, according to Toloraya.

Migrant workers take the boat between Vladivostok and Rajin alongside Russian and Chinese visitors, according to Bogdanov, who said his business was contracted to run the route by a Hong Kong-registered company through an entity in North Korea that he didn’t identify. The service may break even in a few months and will continue even amid the U.S. demands for isolating North Korea, he said.

“We’re not afraid of Trump,” said Bogdanov. “We see the unanimity of Russia and China in pursuing the route to peace. And our poorly-painted little ship is also a path of peace.”

Source: The Straits Times.

Former NATO Supreme Commander Backs New Russia Sanctions

FILE – U.S. Admiral James Stavridis answers a question during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in 2011.

With U.S. lawmakers expected to finalize new sanctions on Russia this week, former NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis told VOA that would be a positive move, since he believes President Donald Trump’s administration has taken too weak a stance on Russia.

In an interview Tuesday with VOA’s Jela De Franceschi, Stavridis, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said additional sanctions on Russia would be “appropriate, measured and make enormous sense, given the level of egregious behavior we have seen from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“Strong sanctions are necessary,” Staviridis said, listing Russia’s offenses: interfering with the U.S. election; supporting Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad, whom he calls a war criminal; and, “worst of all,” invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea.

FILE – A billboard with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin is displayed on a street in Kerch, Crimea, April 7, 2016. The board reads: “Crimea. Russia. Forever.”

Trump “has not been sufficiently strong in his approach to Putin, to Russia,” Stavridis said, and thus it is appropriate for Congress to levy new sanctions.

Asked about how the United States and Russia can cooperate, Stavridis said the two superpowers could still collaborate on counterterrorism, fighting Islamic State and suppressing the illegal narcotics trade. Afghanistan might also be an area where Washington and Moscow can cooperate, he added.

The United States and Russia also can improve relations through their mutual membership in international organizations, Stavridis said, such as the NATO-Russia Council; the Arctic Council, which promotes better coordination among the Arctic states; and the United Nations Security Council.

The more the United States and Russia interact, he added, the better the chances that they can prevent a recurrence of the Cold War.

“On the other hand,” Stavridis noted, “the United States has fundamental interests and a global leadership goal that would require it, at times, to confront Russia on inappropriate international behavior.”

FILE – A separatist rebel guards a check point at the village of Luhanska, Ukraine, March 7, 2017.

The most important area where the United States and Russia can find common ground, the former Western alliance commander said, is in Europe, where NATO faces Russian activity on its borders, beginning in Ukraine. The top challenge is avoiding a confrontation between NATO and Russian military forces, he added.

“We need to avoid anything that would lead to escalation,” Stavridis said.

Ukraine represents a particular challenge, he told VOA: “We’ve seen here an invasion [of eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian forces], an annexation [of Crimea]. Unless the Minsk agreement is fully implemented, I see very challenging times ahead for Russian-European relationships, and the United States is very much a part of that because of the trans-Atlantic relationship.”

Admiral Stavridis discussed these issues in an interview with VOA’s Serbian service.

Source: VOA.

European firms clash with US over pipeline

Sanctions bill could force European giants, including Shell, to pull out of project or face US ‘scarlet letter’

Several leading European companies will be forced to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia or face crippling sanctions under US legislation. Berlin and Brussels have threatened retaliation if Washington presses ahead with sanctions agreed in Congress over the weekend.

A RAFT of top European companies will be forced to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia or face crippling sanctions under draconian legislation racing through the US Congress.

Berlin and Brussels have threatened retaliation if Washington presses ahead with penalties on anything like the suggested terms, marking a dramatic escalation in the simmering transatlantic showdown over America’s extraterritorial police powers.

A consortium of Shell, Engie, Wintershall, Uniper, and Austria’s OMV, is providing half the €9.5bn (£8.5bn) funding for the 760-mile pipeline through the Baltic Sea to Germany. “This is a spectacular interference in internal European affairs,” said Isabelle Kocher, the director-general of Engie in France.

The wording of the US legislation is so broad that it could sweep up dozens of other companies in different ways. “The measures could impact a potentially large number of European companies doing legitimate business,” said the European Commission.

An internal note by the Commission said the EU should “stand ready to act within days” if the US imposes sanctions unilaterally without first securing some degree of consent from the European side.

Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline, OGZPY Nord Stream Map, Gazprom.

Hubertus Heil, general-secretary of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), called the bill a naked attempt by “America-first” forces to seize market share for coming deliveries of US liquefied natural gas. “It is an attack on the basic principle of free trade. Europe must give a strong, united answer to this,” he said.

The House and Senate in Congress reached a deal on the Russian sanctions over the weekend, with slight changes to the text.

The White House has signalled that Donald Trump will not veto the bill, even though it locks in a hostile relationship with Russia for years to come.

The text calls for close consultation with European allies before the sanctions trigger is pulled, but said nothing about the EU itself. Washington sources say this was deliberate.

The Nord Stream project is bitterly opposed in Poland, where it is seen as a sweetheart deal between Berlin and the Kremlin at the expense of allies – and is known as the Molotov-ribbentrop pipeline. It brings no new gas to Europe. It merely switches supply from existing pipelines through Poland and Ukraine, depriving these countries of strategic leverage.

It is hard to see how Brussels can forge ahead with meaningful retaliation when the EU itself is bitterly divided, especially if it was seen to do so at the behest of Germany and Austria. A showdown with the US over this particular issue would deepen what is already a dangerous line of cleavage. It would further undermine emotional and political consent for Nato in Washington at a time when the security guarantee is already coming under scrutiny.

The original draft of the US bill, passed last month by 97:2 in the Senate, captured the mood of anger in both the Democratic and Republican Parties over the Kremlin’s attempt to subvert US democracy through cyber-warfare.

Section 232 of the bill states that entities continuing to take part in the “construction of energy export pipelines” – or merely providing services,

equipment and technology – will be vulnerable to sanctions.

It is almost suicidal for any company with global operations to ignore this threat. Shell, Engie, and others have listings on the New York stock exchange, as well as assets in the US sphere of influence.

An elite cell at the US Treasury has perfected the art of “the boa constrictor’s lethal embrace”, as the creator of the unit described it. The method is to cut off the lifeblood of offenders by using America’s hegemonic control of the world’s dollarised financial system.

A “scarlet letter” under the US Patriot Act can bring a company to its knees even if it operates outside the United States.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attended an emergency meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, in Moscow, over fears that U.S. sanctions may hurt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.. Credit line: Profimedia.com.

The sanctions bill does not automatically impose penalties. This will require an executive order by the White House, but the president is under such political pressure over Russia that he may be constrained to act.

“Nobody wants to end up on the wrong side of a sanctions list. The mere prospect is enough to shut down financing even if the power is never actually used,” said Professor Alan Riley from the Institute for Statecraft.

While the language covers all pipelines – and could embroil Washington in a conflict with Beijing over Russiachina deals – it is obvious that the real target is Nord Stream 2.

The text states explicitly that the project damages the security of energy supply in Europe – rather than enhancing it as claimed by Berlin and Brussels – and it is an open secret on Capitol Hill that the purpose is to shut down Nord Stream 2 once and for all.

Thierry Bros, from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, says US pressure would ultimately backfire. “They can make life difficult for European companies, and it is China that will profit as usual. But there are lots of ways round this,” he said.

“The Commission is starting to understand that it must bite back. Do we decide our own energy policy in Europe or do we let Washington decide,” he said.

Yet Germany’s passion for the venture is peculiar. Nord Stream 2 will double flows through four pipelines together in shallow Baltic waters – less than 20 meters deep in places – increasing the share of EU gas imports vulnerable to terrorist attacks and drone strikes. It creates a “Straits of Hormuz” risk.

The sea is littered with unexploded ordinance from the two world wars. Nord Stream 1 was briefly closed in 2015 when the Swedish navy discovered a mine nearby.

Fears of LNG gas arriving from America make no sense either. It is precisely this source of global gas supply that has broken the Kremlin’s monopoly in Europe and forced Gazprom to slash prices.

Ian Bond, a former British ambassador in the Baltic states and now at the Centre for European Reform, said conspiracy theories that Washington is trying to push its own exporting agenda as an energy superpower makes no sense. The pipeline adds no extra gas. It reroutes gas. “It is nonsense. From the Russian perspective Nord Stream 2 has always been a purely political project,” he said.

Source: The Daily Telegraph.