Biden administration confirms it's waiving sanctions over Nord Stream 2, Senate Democrat says

Biden administration confirms it's waiving sanctions over Nord Stream 2, Senate Democrat says
© Greg Nash

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezLobbying world This week: Congress starts summer sprint The Innovation and Competition Act is progressive policy MORE (D-N.J.) said Wednesday that the Biden administration has confirmed it will waive sanctions against the Russian company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The announcement comes after the decision was initially reported Tuesday. Sources with knowledge of the situation said the administration would issue waivers for both the company and CEO Matthias Warnig, an associate of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE.

The administration reportedly made the decision to avoid straining Washington’s relationship with Germany, which the natural gas pipeline is set to pass through. Reports said U.S. officials had determined it would not be possible to halt construction of the pipeline without also sanctioning German entities.

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“I am opposed to the decision by the Biden Administration to waive sanctions on NS2 AG and Matthias Warnig. I urge the administration to rip off the Band-Aid, lift these waivers and move forward with the congressionally mandated sanctions,” Menendez said in a statement. “The administration has said that the pipeline is a bad idea and that it is a Russian malign influence project. I share that sentiment, but fail to see how today’s decision will advance U.S. efforts to counter Russian aggression in Europe.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke in favor of the decision Wednesday evening, calling it “a constructive step.”

In his statement, Menendez asked for details on how Germany intended to reciprocate for the U.S.’s concession, as well as whether Germany will increase its assistance to Ukraine. The construction of the pipeline would allow Russia to send natural gas into western Europe without passing through Ukraine, isolating its former client state. Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden ramps up pressure on Iran as it grapples with protests Bipartisan governors press Biden administration on Canadian border restrictions More than 180 local employees working at US embassy, consulates in Russia laid off MORE said in his confirmation hearing earlier this year that he was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent” the completion of the pipeline.

“This decision has created uncertainty in many corners of Europe and I expect to hear very soon from the administration on its plans moving forward,” Menendez said in a statement. “I believe President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE should do everything possible to accomplish what the Trump administration failed to do for four years: stop the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for good.”

The New Jersey Democrat’s comments come after sharp criticism of the reports by congressional Republicans, including Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (Texas), who accused Biden of “actively helping Putin build his pipeline” in a tweet Tuesday afternoon.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.