Trump presses Germany to drop Russian pipeline - report

U.S. President Donald Trump is pressuring Germany to pull out of the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project, a report said Thursday.

Trump told Chancellor Angela Merkel last month that Berlin should drop support for the pipeline linking Russia and Germany if it wants to avoid a trans-Atlantic trade war, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, which cited U.S., German and European officials.

In return, Trump reportedly said the U.S. would start talks for a new trade deal with the European Union.

The U.S. president in March imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports but gave EU countries until June 1 to negotiate new deals with the U.S.

Trump's move could be aimed at expediting those trade negotiations and increasing U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe, according to some experts, although White House officials have denied such objectives.

In early April, after meeting with the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia at the White House, Trump criticized the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

"Germany hooks up a pipeline into Russia, where Germany is going to be paying billions of dollars for energy into Russia.

"And I'm saying: What's going on with that? How come Germany is paying vast amounts of money to Russia when they hook up a pipeline? That's not right," he said.

Poland, Denmark and Ukraine also oppose the project, arguing that it will increase the EU's dependency on Russian gas and Europe should instead focus on diversifying its energy resources.

The $11 billion project is planned to carry 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually 1,230 kilometers under the Baltic Sea from Russia to northern Germany after it becomes operational in early 2020.

The Nord Stream 2 project is also raising security concerns and could lead to U.S. sanctions, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Sandra Oudkirk said Thursday in Berlin.

Oudkirk said Russia could use the project to place monitoring and listening devices for surveillance under the Baltic Sea, which increases the risk of the pipeline from an intelligence and security point of view.

She also noted that the U.S. Congress has given Trump the power to impose sanctions on a number of Russian energy projects, and companies involved in such projects carry the risk of incurring U.S. sanctions.

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