Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline

Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline
© Greg Nash

A Republican-backed bill introduced Wednesday in the Senate would impose sanctions on entities involved in a controversial Russian natural gas pipeline, part of an effort to deter NATO countries from participating in the proposed project.

The largely ceremonial bill, introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Democrats say Trump ceded right to block Bolton when he attacked him MORE (R-Wyo.), aims to "improve energy security" for NATO members by imposing sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline — a planned natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

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he pipeline was criticized by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE during his meetings with leaders of NATO member countries in Brussels last week.

In addition to the proposed sanctions, the legislation looks to ease restrictions on transatlantic exports and imports of U.S. natural gas for NATO members, with the goal of encouraging NATO countries to import gas from countries within the organization.

The bill would allow U.S. gas exports to NATO countries to receive expedited approval by the Department of Energy by classifying the exports as furthering U.S. national security interests.

"It is the sense of Congress that United States and other NATO member countries should explore ways to ensure that NATO member countries diversify their energy supplies and routes in order to enhance their energy security, including through the development of a transatlantic energy strategy," the bill reads.

Barrrasso in a statement Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin uses his country's natural gas to "extort and threaten" U.S. allies.

The legislation “will take this geopolitical weapon away from Russia by sanctioning the Nord Stream II gas pipeline and facilitating the export of more American natural gas to our allies," Barrasso said. "With an abundance of natural gas in the United States, it’s time we use American energy resources to give our allies lasting and dependable energy security.”

Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing GOP leader warns lawmakers on fundraising: 'Getting our ass kicked' MORE (R-Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Lawmakers introduce bill to reform controversial surveillance authorities Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says MORE (R-Mont.) are co-sponsors of the bill.

The proposed pipeline has split European countries. While it would help facilitate the transport of liquified natural gas (LNG) to states in need, critics say it will increase the continent's dependence on Russia and could add to security threats.

Germany received between 50 percent and 75 percent of its LNG last year from Russia, and it is a proponent of the pipeline.

Trump blasted the planned pipeline on Twitter during his visit to Brussels last week for the NATO summit, saying: "What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025."