Biden aide accuses EU of putting ‘lives at stake’ as fresh Nord Stream 2 row erupts

EU: Guy Verhofstadt calls to ‘reconsider’ Nord Stream 2

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There are fears European countries could face supply issues this winter because gas providers have been unable to fill storage during the summer. Critics of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline have suggested Russia has deliberately slowed supplies in a bid to speed up European regulators’ approval of the project. Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security for the US President’s State Department, said Moscow had “undersupplied the market compared to its traditional supplies”.

He said this had contributed to the highest prices on record.

“If you get a real cold winter by January and February, you could run out of supplies,” Mr Hochstein told the Financial Times.

“And that’s where I get concerned.

“This is not just about some geopolitical games. People’s lives are at stake.”

Washington has been long opposed to the creation of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas to Germany.

Mr Hochstein was appointed last month to focus on the risks posed by the project.

Its critics say Moscow will use the pipeline to undermine Ukraine – by bypassing it and depriving Kiev of lucrative transit fees – and increase its leverage over EU energy supplies.

The £8 billion pipeline will ship some 55 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe each year.

It is due to turn the taps on before the end of the year.

Russian energy giant Gazprom has said it has met all of its long-term contracts to European buyers.

But the Kremlin-backed firm has been criticised for not making additional gas available when when supplies are tight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week blamed “smart alecs” in the European Commission.

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The strongman leader suggested eurocrats had pushed for “market-based” pricing, a dig at EU efforts to increase competition in gas markets where Russia is dominant.

Other factors in the crunch include a slump in domestic European production this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There has also been a higher demand in gas as countries move away from highly polluting coal to provide energy supplies.

Washington has reached a truce with Germany that forces Berlin to impose sanctions on Russia if it “weaponises” Nord Stream 2 against Ukraine or other allies.

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President Biden’s administration has also lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the project’s Gazprom-owned operator.

During a visit to Kiev, Mr Hochstein discussed implementing the US-German agreement with local officials.

Part of this is convincing Gazprom to prolong its gas transit agreements through Ukraine beyond 2024.

“My expectation is that the Russians will agree,” he said.

The adviser stopped short in accusing Moscow of deliberately curbing gas supplies to Europe in recent months.

But Mr Hochstein did conclude that Russia had “been weaponising natural gas for many, many years”.

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