Schiff: Russian invasion should be ‘final death’ of Nord Stream 2
The head of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week should mark the death knell of the massive natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using his country’s enormous petroleum reserves as leverage over the European nations that import that oil and gas. With that in mind, he’s advocating for the “wholesale” elimination of the Nord Stream 2 project in response to Putin’s remarkable decision to strike Ukraine Wednesday evening.
“I think it ought to spell at a minimum, the final death of Nord Stream 2,” Schiff told reporters in the Capitol. “That ought to be our response to Russia’s use of oil and gas as a geopolitical weapon.”
President Biden had drawn howls last year from critics, most of them Republicans, when he waived existing sanctions on construction of the Nord Stream 2 project, an $11 billion pipeline connecting western Russia to northern Germany. Those critics had accused the president of empowering Putin by helping to create a European reliance on Russian fuel.
Biden reversed course on Wednesday, when Putin’s invasion was imminent, by revoking the waivers. Germany, in a separate move, halted its certification of the pipeline, which is virtually complete but remains inoperable while it awaits approval from German regulators.
Amid the debate, Republicans have pushed Biden to expand oil and gas production domestically, to include new drilling on federal lands and offshore.
“Supporting our allies in Europe and countering Putin’s aggression means regaining our energy independence,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said Thursday in a statement.
The administration has resisted those entreaties in its efforts to fight climate change. And Schiff on Thursday sided squarely with his White House ally on the issue, rejecting the idea that the invasion should move the administration to abandon its climate policies.
“I don’t think the response to making war on Ukraine ought to be the dismantling of our protections against climate change,” Schiff said. “I do think what it ought to prompt is a wholesale effort to wean Europe off of Russian oil and gas so that Russia can no longer use that as leverage against Europe.”
The comments arrived shortly before Biden was set to announce a new round of economic sanctions on Russia, after his initial threats to penalize Moscow in the case of an invasion proved an insufficient deterrent to Putin’s designs to expand Russia’s sphere of influence.
Schiff praised the patriotism of the Ukrainian military, which has remained defiant in defending its homeland from Putin’s offensive.
“But it’s a terrible mismatch,” he quickly added. “The Russians, I think, have the military capability to overwhelm Ukrainian forces. But Ukrainians are determined to fight and protect their homeland. And while I think we we are likely to see Russia very quickly overrun Ukraine, I also think that this will be a long and bloody campaign.”
Framing the invasion as “unprovoked” and “unjustified,” he urged the administration to “dramatically escalate” the sanctions Biden had already announced earlier in the week. He suggested expanding restrictions on Russian banks, to deny Moscow access to western capital, and new efforts to prevent the Kremlin from gaining western technologies for new weapons systems.
“We have to hope that the the sanctions that are imposed now are far more severe than anything we posted 2014 and that they’re sustained as long as Russian forces occupy Ukraine, and I hope some will go on indefinitely,” he said.
“Civilians are being killed,” he continued. “The Russian people need to be made to understand the folly of their dictator. That’s not going to happen unless there’s long-term, sustained sanctions.”
Schiff said Biden, by and large, has the authority to apply those penalties unilaterally. But if he needs congressional approval at any juncture, Congress would approve it with overwhelming bipartisan support, Schiff predicted.
“If there’s any authority he doesn’t have that he does need to increase sanctions on Russia, he’ll get it from Congress,” he said.
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