The US’ Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has reportedly sent letters to German companies building the Russia-backed Nord Stream-2 pipeline, warning them that they risk being subjected to “significant sanctions” if they did not pull out of the gas pipeline project, Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported, cited by DW.

In televised remarks broadcast by DW on January 14, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin has long been aware of the US’ security concerns about Nord Stream-2, including in discussions between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald J. Trump.

The 55-billion-cubic metre Nord Stream-2 pipeline is expected to deliver Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, while at the same time bypassing Ukraine. The United States opposes Nord Stream-2 over concerns that the gas pipeline would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and diminish the importance of gas transit via Ukraine. US companies are also eager to sell US liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe.

In a letter cited by Bild am Sonntag, Grenell wrote that the pipeline would make Europe dependent on Moscow and increase the threat of Russian interventions. “We want to emphasise that companies involved in Russian energy exports are taking part in something that could prompt a significant risk of sanctions,” the ambassador wrote, cited by DW. The paper also quoted a Grenell spokesman who said that the letter should not be seen as a threat, but as a “clear message of US policy.”

Grenell’s letter comes a month after US Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Frank Fannon warned companies that are involved in the construction of Nord Stream-2 that they face the risk of sanctions unless they withdraw from the project. Fannon said the US government has the ability to sanction Russia’s energy export pipelines under Section 232 of the Counter-Americas Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. the move would have significant consequences for several European companies as Nord Stream-2 AG, the Kremlin-linked consortium responsible for the construction and operation of the pipeline, has signed financing agreements for the project with France’s ENGIE, Austria’s OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, as well as Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall.

Responding to the latest reports about the stern warnings from the US Ambassador to Berlin, Nord Stream-2’s EU representative Sebastian Sass told New Europe that “the implementation of Nord Stream 2 is not subject to political sentiment, but based on a comprehensive framework of permitting procedures following clearly defined legal requirements that are based on EU and national legislation as well as international conventions.”

Sass insisted that Nord Stream-2’s European financial investors and suppliers are “fully committed to the project” and are monitoring relevant developments.