Administration

EU politician calls for U.S. to sanction Russian gas pipeline

A top European Union politician is encouraging the U.S. to sanction a Russian gas pipeline headed for Germany, as part of efforts to push back on Moscow's destabilizing efforts more broadly. 

Radosław Sikorski, the interparliamentary delegation chair for the European Union, was in Washington this week meeting with Biden administration officials and congressional lawmakers on E.U. and U.S. priorities. 

Sikorski, who served as Poland's foreign minister between 2007 and 2014, said the U.S. position on the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 was at the top of discussions he had with lawmakers and administration officials.  

He met with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.); Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), chairman of the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue caucus; and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), the chairwoman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation.

"I made the point that if the U.S. imposes sanctions they should be effective," Sikorski said in an interview with The Hill.

U.S. sanctions on Nord Stream 2 were noticeably absent from a raft of economic actions targeting Russia that were announced by President Biden on Thursday. The actions were a response to Moscow's cyberattacks, election interference and threats against American troops in Afghanistan.

Biden addressed his decision to hold off sanctioning the pipeline in remarks to reporters at the White House, saying it is a complicated issue affecting allies in Europe.  

"I've been opposed to Nord Stream 2 for a long time, from the beginning ... when I was out of office and even before office, when we - before I left office as vice president. But that still is an issue that is in play," he said.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle support expanded sanctions on the pipeline, which is believed to be between 90 and 95 percent complete. 

The Trump administration on its last day in office sanctioned the Russian vessel Fortuna for its involvement in the pipeline's construction, but lawmakers say they have identified more than a dozen entities working on the pipeline that should be sanctioned. 

Sikorski said that Europe is divided on the pipeline, accusing Germany of behaving "selfishly" for putting its own economic interests ahead of concerns shared by other E.U. member countries, in particular Central and Eastern European countries like Poland. He also noted concerns from Ukraine, which holds close relations with the E.U. and where gas exports are key drivers of its economy. 

"I recognize that the U.S. has a dilemma whether to back Germany or Central and Eastern Europe, but it's an issue over which Germany behaves selfishly, putting its economic interests ahead of the interests of the entire West and of the economic interests of Central and Eastern Europe and I just hope that U.S. sanctions succeed," he said. 

"The E.U. is torn on this because there is a fundamental difference of opinion between E.U. members. There are some that are in favor and some that are fundamentally opposed," he continued.

On policy towards Russia, Sikorski said the U.S. and E.U. are aligned but urged in his meetings for Washington to do more to support Ukraine in the face of aggression from Moscow by increasing lethal assistance to Kyiv, in particular Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Ukraine has purchased 360 of these missiles and 47 launchers from the U.S., between 2018 and 2019. 

"I advised my interlocutors that President Putin, by threatening Ukraine, is giving us a good opportunity that should not be wasted by reinforcing Ukraine militarily," Sikorski said.

"We should impose an embargo on Russian gas imports; that would resolve the Nord Stream problem at a stroke. And if Russia waged war and changed borders by force in Europe, again, we should cut it off from the SWIFT systems," he added, referring to the global financial messaging network. 

Biden administration officials along with European allies have condemned large Russian troop build ups on Ukraine's border and on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. 

But the head of U.S. European Command, Gen. Tod Wolters, told lawmakers on Thursday that there is a "low to medium risk" of a Russian invasion, despite the largest massing of Russian troops on Ukraines border since fighting broke out in 2014.

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