US Energy Secretary Rick Perry warned Monday that the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline would increase Russia's political influence on European Union foreign policy.
On a visit to Lithuania to promote US energy ties with Eastern European nations, Perry said the pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany "would deliver a stunning blow to Europe's energy diversity and security."
"It would increase Russia's leverage over Europe's foreign policy and Europe's vulnerability to a supply disruption," Perry told an energy forum in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Perry said the Baltic sea pipeline, together with the TurkStream pipeline - which will supply Russian gas to Turkey via the Black Sea - "would enable Moscow to end gas transit through Ukraine by the close of the decade."
"Nord Stream 2 is designed to drive a single source gas artery deep into Europe and (to drive) a stake through the heart of European stability and security," Perry said.
He said the United States "were ready, were willing and were able" to increase European energy security by providing alternative sources, notably liquified natural gas and civil nuclear capabilities.
"We support multiple routes to deliver energy across Europe. Along with energy choice we support free and open markets... we oppose using energy to coerce any country," he said.
Vilnius university professor Ramunas Vilpisauskas said that while the US criticism of Nord Stream was part of Washington's drive to increase its own exports to Europe, it was also in line with the interests of a region dependent on Russian supplies.
"A commercial aim to increase US exports to Europe seems to be the main reason for the criticism of Nord Stream and Turkstream," Vilpisauskas told AFP.
"But from the point of view of Lithuania and other central European EU members, it is a win-win situation because they have been actively looking for possibilities to diversify sources of their imports."
The controversial 11-billion-euro ($12-billion) Nord Stream 2 energy link between Russia and Germany is set to double Russian gas shipments to Germany, the EU's biggest economy.
Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states fear it will increase Europe's reliance on Russian energy which Moscow could then use to exert political pressure.