Energy & Environment

Biden waiving sanctions for Nord Stream 2 pipeline firm: report

The U.S. State Department is set to waive sanctions that would affect the construction of a Russian company’s pipeline into Germany, Axios reported Tuesday, citing two sources briefed on the matter.

In its mandatory 90-day report to Congress, the Biden administration will concede that both the corporate entity behind the pipeline, Nord Stream 2 AG, and CEO Matthias Warnig, are engaging in sanctionable conduct. However, the department will suspend application of those sanctions, but apply sanctions to Russian ships involved in the construction.

Fully halting the 95 percent complete project would likely require sanctioning German entities as well, the sources told Axios, and the White House has decided against applying such pressure to the U.S.-German relationship.

The completion of the pipeline would allow fuel from Russia to bypass Ukraine to reach Europe, undermining the nation’s connection to western Europe. Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said in his confirmation hearing earlier this year that “I am determined to do whatever we can to prevent [the pipeline’s] completion.”

Sources told Axios the administration would reserve the right to cancel any sanctions waivers, and that knowledge of that would give the U.S. leverage over Russia.

Radosław Sikorski, the interparliamentary delegation chair for the European Union, called for the U.S. to impose sanctions on the entire pipeline in April. After a meeting with a group of lawmakers including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue Caucus Chair Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Sikorski told The Hill he “made the point that if the U.S. imposes sanctions they should be effective.”

A spokesperson for the State Department told The Hill that the administration “has been clear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and that of Ukraine and eastern flank NATO allies and partners.”

Republicans criticized the Biden administration over the new. 

“If these reports are true, they would indicate the Administration was never planning to do whatever it could to ‘prevent the completion’ of Nord Stream 2 – despite promises made to the contrary by Secretary Blinken in his confirmation hearing earlier this year,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in a statement.

“I want to be clear: this pipeline is not a simple commercial project that could frustrate our relationship with Berlin. It is a Russian malign influence project that threatens to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow, render Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression and provide billions of dollars to Putin’s coffers,” he added. “If the Putin regime is allowed to finish this pipeline, it will be because the Biden Administration chose to let it happen.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also blasted the reports, saying Biden was “actively helping Putin build his pipeline” in a tweet Tuesday.

Tags Antony Blinken Gregory Meeks Jim Costa Michael McCaul Nord Stream 2 pipeline Ted Cruz Vladimir Putin

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