(Bloomberg) -- Even when Donald Trump is threatening sanctions against a vital Russian energy project, President Vladimir Putin still has nothing but praise for his American counterpart.
“Donald isn’t just president of the United States, he’s also a good and strong entrepreneur,” Putin said at talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Russia’s Sochi on Friday. “He’s also promoting the interests of his business to ensure sales in the European market of liquified American gas” by opposing the Nord Stream 2 gas-pipeline project linking Russia and Germany, Putin said.
The U.S. stepped up longstanding opposition to Nord Stream 2 this week by warning that the pipeline raises security concerns, including the prospect that Russia could install undersea surveillance equipment in the Baltic Sea. It threatened sanctions, saying the project would increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies and damage neighboring Ukraine, which would be bypassed and lose gas-transit revenue.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BASF SE’s Wintershall unit, Uniper SE, OMV AG and Engie SA have agreed to provide Russia’s Gazprom PJSC with financing for the project.
White House opposition to the pipeline is a rare example of continuity of policy between the Trump administration and that of former President Barack Obama, Putin said. It’s an “exclusively economic” project and Russia’s willing to talk about continuing to supply gas via Ukraine if it makes sense, he said.
While Germany regards Nord Stream 2 as a business project, “it has other implications” including the “strategic significance” of Ukraine’s transit role, Merkel said. “So we need to discuss the question of what sort of guarantees can be offered to Ukraine in this context.”
While he understands that Trump’s protecting U.S. business interests to seek advantage in the European market, Nord Stream 2 is “beneficial for us. We’ll fight for it,” Putin said.
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