U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Denmark, where he is set to discuss the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline when he meets with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Copenhagen.
The pipeline, which Russia is seeking to complete, would transport gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea. The portion of the pipeline that remains to be built lies in Denmark's economic waters.
Pompeo last week warned companies against helping Russia finish the nearly $11 billion pipeline, which the United States opposes on grounds that it strengthens the Kremlin's grip on the European energy market and punishes Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists in its eastern provinces.
The pipeline would largely reroute natural gas around Ukraine, depriving Kyiv of billions of dollars in annual fees.
European vessels laying the pipeline halted their work in December 2019 following a round of U.S. sanctions that targeted their activity. Russia is now hoping to complete it using its own ships, prompting the United States to include an amendment to a defense spending bill to widen the sanctions to include not just vessels, but any company helping Russia complete the pipeline.
The amendment passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 20 but would still need to pass the Senate and be signed by the president before the new sanctions would become law.
Discussions also will include security, trade, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international cooperation. Relations with China and recent developments in Hong Kong will also be on the agenda.
Denmark is the second stop on Pompeo's current visit to Europe.
On July 21 he met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in London as tensions between the West and China soar over Beijing's lack of transparency about the outbreak of the pandemic, continued human rights abuses, and charges of cyber-piracy.
Pompeo called on every country that "understands freedom and democracy and values that'' to recognize the threat posed by China. "We hope we can build out a coalition that understands this,'' he said.
U.S. relations with China, already tense over a host of issues, including trade, intellectual property rights, 5G technology, and human rights, have spiraled downward since the outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this year. The United States has accused China of misleading the world about the outbreak and enabling the virus to quickly spread globally.
The United States has lobbied its allies to ban the use of Huawei’s 5G technology, saying the Chinese government could use it to spy on Western countries. Huawei denies the allegations and argues that U.S. protectionism was behind the move.
Pompeo also is expected to meet Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, and representatives from Greenland and the Faroe Islands while in Copenhagen, according to the Danish government.
Kofod has said Denmark considers the United States its "absolutely closest ally."
But bilateral relations hit a snag in August 2019, when Trump floated the idea of the United States buying Greenland, the world's largest island.
Frederiksen called the proposal "absurd," leading Trump to cancel a planned visit to Copenhagen over the "nasty" tone of the response.
A few phone calls between the countries have since eased the tensions, and Greenland officials say they want to put the affair behind them.
Last month, the United States reopened a consulate in Greenland, a move that Kofod welcomed.
Pompeo has said that the Arctic region is important for U.S. security because of the "militarization of the Arctic that China and Russia are presenting."