WARSAW, Poland—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is galvanizing European allies to oppose a new Russian energy pipeline known as Nord Stream 2, calling it a key "national security" threat that will embolden Moscow and give it greater leverage over Europe, according to State Department officials and sources on Capitol Hill.
Pompeo, who is in Warsaw to helm a wide-ranging forum on the Middle East and, in particular, Iran's increasingly provocative moves in the region, with dozens of international leaders was unequivocal in the Trump administration's opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The Trump administration has the support of congressional leaders in opposing the pipeline, most noteworthy that of Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who told the Washington Free Beacon that the Russian pipeline threatens regional stability.
As Pompeo and his senior staff work through a range of issues with foreign leaders in Warsaw, it has become increasingly clear that Europe's energy independence is becoming tied up in the administration's efforts to mount a counter-offense against Iran—and its allies—across the Middle East.
Just how far the administration will go in pressuring European allies to reject the Russian pipeline remains to be seen and is likely to reach a tipping point in the coming days.
"Sen. Cruz believes the construction of Nord Stream 2 threatens Europe's energy security and America's national security," a Cruz spokesperson told the Free Beacon, following a meeting between Pompeo and the Polish foreign minister.
"To ensure Nord Stream 2 is not completed, he will work with his colleagues and push the administration to impose new sanctions if they become necessary," the Cruz spokesperson said, throwing the senator's support to Pompeo's efforts.
As Pompeo in the coming days addresses issues ranging from Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear technology to the issue of bolstering NATO allies, it is more than likely the issue of Nord Stream 2 will be at the forefront of the conversation, both in official and unofficial channels.
"Like Poland, the United States continues to oppose strongly the implementation of Russia's proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline," the State Department informed reporters on Tuesday as Pompeo touched down in Warsaw to kick off the meetings.
Pompeo lauded Poland for its stance opposing the Russian pipeline, both in public comments and through State Department officials.
"We congratulate Poland for its impressive efforts to expand and diversify its sources of energy, including by investing in infrastructure such as a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in northwestern Poland, where the first U.S. shipment arrived in June 2017," the State Department said. "There is enormous potential for greater energy cooperation between Poland and the United States, including in renewables and nuclear power."
The pipeline has emerged as an ongoing diplomatic and geostrategic challenge for the Trump administration, which made its opposition to Nord Stream 2 a centerpiece of recent meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, following private meetings with Pompeo on Monday, appeared convinced by the administration's position.
"When it comes to Russia, I told the secretary as well that there's an enormous hypocrisy and political correctness in the European political arena in this regard," Szijjarto said during a joint press conference Monday. "Because look, it's not the Hungarian and it's not the Central European energy companies which are preparing and building Nord Stream 2 together with Gazprom. It was not the Hungarian prime minister to be invited as a superstar at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, but it was the French president. It was not the leaders of the Hungarian energy companies to sit together on the stage with President Putin on the last Russian energy week, but the CEOs of the biggest Western European energy companies."
"Look at the trade figures," he said. "Look at the trade figures between the Western European countries and Russia, and you will see that we are, let's say, fed up in a legitimate way that you usually portray us as having a tight relationship to Russia."