Western Europe's reliance on Moscow for energy supplies is only going to increase after the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline comes online, Poland's prime minister has claimed, warning the Kremlin could have sway over the EU.
Speaking at a meeting on Tuesday, Mateusz Morawiecki alleged that Moscow is putting pressure on both Warsaw and the bloc through the development of the underwater gas link.
"Part of the EU is already heavily dependent on Russian energy, and if the pipeline starts working, we can conclude that we will become even more reliant," Prime Minister Morawiecki said, appearing alongside Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi?.
Morawiecki also accused Moscow of using gas as a "political bargaining chip" to strengthen its hand in continental Europe, which has seen prices rise sharply in recent months amid a shortage of supplies.
Morawiecki has been a long-time opponent of Nord Stream 2, undertaken by Russia's state energy giant Gazprom in partnership with German firms. In an interview with Polsat news on Monday, he blamed the project, as well as Russia, for the high rates of inflation hitting consumers across the EU.
The pipeline, which has now been completed, faced another setback earlier this week, when Washington announced new sanctions against entities that have worked on its construction. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said organizations would be hit with penalties under an act that is supposed to protect Europe's "energy security."
The Kremlin has since hit back at the embargoes, branding them as "illegal and wrong." On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov blasted the new measures against a company with ties to Russia and two vessels belonging to the country. "The financial penalties on Nord Stream 2 are a continuation of this sanctions language that Washington stubbornly refuses to give up," he bemoaned.
Once the pipeline is given the green light to launch operations by regulators in Berlin, Nord Stream 2 will send gas directly from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea without transiting through other countries. Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the venture not only ensures security of supplies, but will benefit consumers in the EU.