Biden Faces Bipartisan Blowback for Lifting Sanctions on Russia-to-Germany ‘Nord Stream 2’ Gas Pipeline
Do you support or oppose lifting sanctions on the company & CEO involved with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?
by Causes | 5.20.21
What’s the story?
- The Biden administration informed Congress on Thursday that it intends to waive sanctions on the company behind the controversial expansion of an undersea Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline and its CEO, who is reportedly a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- The decision makes it a near certainty that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will be completed in the near future over the objections of NATO members in Eastern Europe along with Ukraine despite longstanding U.S. opposition. The Biden administration reportedly concluded that its only option to stop the pipeline was to sanction German companies and opted to avoid doing so to maintain that relationship.
What is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?
- The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is an expansion of the existing Nord Stream pipeline, which is projected to more than double its annual capacity from 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to 3.9 trillion cubic feet. The pipeline brings natural gas from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany, where it can be routed through other pipelines that go to the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
- Planning for Nord Stream 2 began as early as 2011 and an agreement to build it was reached in 2015, although there have been pauses during the process due to political opposition brought by the Obama and Trump administrations in concert with like-minded European nations. Construction is expected to be completed this year.
- Nord Stream 2 is seen as a geopolitical boon for Russia because it will increase its ability to send large volumes of natural gas to Western Europe, thereby increasing its sway with European Union nations by gaining leverage over their energy markets. It also reduces the importance of Ukraine and other Eastern European nations, including NATO members, to European energy markets and the competitiveness of liquefied natural gas exported from the U.S. to its European allies.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement explaining that the Biden administration believes “it is in the national interest” to waive sanctions on the company Nord Stream 2 AG, its CEO Matthias Warnig, and the company’s corporate officers. He also noted that the administration will impose sanctions on 13 vessels involved in the pipeline’s construction.
- Nord Stream 2 AG is owned by Russian state energy company Gazprom, and Warnig is a former intelligence officer from communist East Germany who has reportedly known Putin for more than three decades.
What they’re saying
- Blinken warned of sanctions on Nord Stream 2 companies on March 18th, “Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal ― for Germany, for Ukraine, and for our Central and Eastern European allies and partners” because it’s “intended to divide Europe and weaken European energy security.” Blinken’s statement from May 19th about the sanctions waiver for the Nord Stream 2 company and its CEO concluded:
“Today’s actions demonstrate the Administration’s commitment to energy security in Europe, consistent with the President’s pledge to rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe. We will continue to oppose completion of this project, which would weaken European energy security and that of Ukraine and Eastern flank NATO and EU countries. Our opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is unwavering.”
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) released a statement saying that he agrees “that the pipeline is a bad idea and that it is a Russian malign influence project” but fails to see how the sanctions waiver will bolster U.S. efforts to counter Russia in Europe. His statement asked the following questions about the waiver decision:
“First, what does the administration now expect from Germany after having made this significant concession to exercise the waiver? Will Berlin strengthen its support for Ukraine in the Normandy Format? Will it provide additional assistance to Kyiv in its struggle against Russian aggression? Also, what will the administration do to bolster our relationship with Ukraine? 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.”
- In an interview after the waiver was announced, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) offered the following criticism of the Biden administration’s sanctions waiver for the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline:
“Joe Biden is shutting down American pipelines like the Keystone XL pipeline but he’s helping construct pipelines for Russia. This is Vladimir Putin’s #1 foreign policy priority so he can make Western Europe more dependent on Russian gas and so he can bypass our NATO allies in the East, isolating them further. Joe Biden apparently is going to allow this pipeline to go forward even though he has power that Congress passed on a bipartisan basis to sanction the owners and operators of this pipeline, I guess because he doesn’t want to offend Germany’s delicate sensibilities.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: White House Photo by David Lienemann via Wikimedia / Public Domain)
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