The bill toughening unilateral US sanctions against Russia risks driving a wedge between the United States and key European allies as Brussels is likely to consider the restrictions unprofitable, Richard Connolly, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, wrote in an article posted on the CNN website.
“The sanctions regime that gradually came into effect targeted strategic sectors of the Russian economy, including energy, defense and finance. But as well as hitting Russian entities, Western firms also suffered,” the expert said.
According to Connoly, American and European manufacturing and energy giants lost a lot of money. “The sale of French warships and German machinery was halted. Billions of dollars’ worth of investments by energy giants such as ExxonMobil, Total and Shell were postponed. Businesses in countries with historically close commercial ties with Russia – such as Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria – were hit especially hard,” he wrote.
“By pushing through a new round of sanctions that will expand on those that already exist against Russia, US legislators may be inadvertently giving the Kremlin something it has hoped would happen ever since the Crimea crisis began: driving a wedge between Europe and the United States,” the article said.
The stated desire to target the proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is seen by some European officials as an attempt to replace cheap Russian gas with more expensive US liquefied natural gas. “Not only would this disrupt existing gas relationships between Russia and European countries such as Austria, Germany and Italy, but it would also result in European industrial firms paying a higher price for energy than their US competitors,” Connoly said. “EU officials are already hinting at retaliation against the United States if their interests are threatened,” he added.
As reported earlier the US Senate passed the bill toughening the country’s unilateral sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea as senators voted 98-2 on the bill on Thursday. Since it has passed through both chambers, the document titled “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” will be sent to President Donald Trump. The White House has recently signaled that Trump favors toughening of restrictions against the three countries, though he will take a decision after revising the final version of the draft law.
The US bill contains restrictive measures against Russia taken by the previous Barack Obama administration on the basis of executive orders – the sanctions introduced on March 6 and December 18, 2014, on April 1, 2015 and on July 26 and December 29, 2016.
The bill provides that the US President may levy sanctions on persons planning to invest over $5 mln per year or $1 mln at a time in the construction of Russian export pipelines, provide services and technologies to such projects and provide information.
According to the document, the US government is to continue efforts to prevent the construction of Nord Stream 2. The bill claims that the project negatively affects the European Union’s energy security, the development of gas market in Central and Eastern Europe and energy reforms in Ukraine. Also, the draft law urges the US government to focus on exports of American energy resources to Europe in order to add new jobs in the country’s own economy.