REUTERS

The U.S. government is stepping up the looming threat of sanctions in a bid to halt the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which will link Russia to Germany, and has already identified a number of companies or individuals that might face sanctions.

That is according to the dpa agency, referring to a senior U.S. official.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the U.S. government has already identified a number of companies or individuals that might face sanctions if they do not cease their operations related to the pipeline, which includes shipping activity.

"We're in the process of calling a number of these companies to make them aware that they're likely engaged in sanctionable activity," the dpa agency quoted the official as saying on November 21.

However, he declined to name the companies in question.

"Many of these companies are unaware of this and these calls give them an opportunity to unwind their activity," he said.

Moreover, the U.S. government will present a report to Congress on sanctionable companies within days or weeks, the official added.

Earlier, Bild reported that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden intended to put an end to the Nord Stream 2 project.

The norms contained in the 2021 U.S. defense budget provide for sanctions aimed at insurance and certification companies participating in the implementation of Russia's Nord Stream 2.

Read alsoPoland supports Ukraine's ambitions as Eastern Europe's transit state – DudaIn December last year, the U.S. Congress imposed sanctions on pipeline services laying pipes for Nord Stream 2 at great depths. As a result, the Swiss company, which was building the pipeline, halted works immediately. Russia, on its part, has not given up efforts to to find an alternative ship to complete the pipelaying.

A new package of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 is intended to make such attempts futile.

Nord Stream 2: Background

The Nord Stream 2 project envisages the construction and operation of two gas pipeline branches with a total throughput capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from the coast of Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. It should connect Russia's Ust-Lug and Germany's Greifswald. This new pipeline bypassing Ukraine is to be built next to the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

The construction of the pipeline was expected to be completed before the end of 2019.

The pipeline will be 1,220 km long. The project is being implemented by Russia's Gazprom in alliance with European companies – ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall. Ukraine stands against the construction of Nord Stream 2 as it will most likely lose its status of a gas transit country, while its potential revenue losses are estimated at US$3 billion annually. The project is also highly criticized by the U.S., Poland, and the Baltic States.

On July 15, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the participants in the Nord Stream 2 project would fall under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA.

On July 16, the U.S. recommended that investment companies reconsider their participation in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

On July 23, the U.S. Senate approved the draft National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which, among other things, contains additional sanctions against the companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry welcomed the United States' readiness to impose sanctions on investment companies involved in the completion of the project.

On October 20, the U.S. Department of State said it expands sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

The Kremlin called the new U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream 2 raider competition.

At the same time, Germany announced Nord Stream 2 would be completed, despite the U.S. position, however there is no exact date for the completion of construction.