The State Department has notified in a report to Congress that it will not impose sanctions on the company overseeing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany. It motivated this on national security grounds. The decision drew criticism from US lawmakers.
In a report presented to Congress on Wednesday, the State Department confirmed that Nord Stream 2 AG company and its chief executive Matthias Warnig are engaged in activities subject to sanctions under US law. However, it explained the waiver by “national security grounds”. “The Biden administration has said that stopping Nord Stream 2 is a shot in the dark now that the pipeline from Russia to Germany is more than 90 percent complete,” Bloomberg news agency noted, citing an anonymous State Department official.
He said that stopping the project would be difficult, but that Washington would attempt to do so, although the chances of stopping construction of the gas pipeline are getting slimmer. As the official pointed out, President Joe Biden wants to avoid confrontation with Germany and other European Union allies who support the project. “Our opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is unwavering. (…) While we may not always agree, our alliances remain strong and our position is consistent with our commitment to strengthening transatlantic ties important to national security,” Bloomberg quotes a statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The US diplomatic chief argued for the administration’s commitment to Europe’s energy security, in line with the president’s “commitment to rebuilding relationships with allies and partners in Europe.” Bloomberg recalls that construction of the pipeline began during former President Donald Trump’s term in office in 2018. It had become a major source of friction between the US and its European allies, particularly Germany. The report states that the imposition of sanctions “would affect US relations with Germany, the EU and other European allies and partners”. It justifies the need for close cooperation in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and to counter the policies of Russia, China and Iran. According to the document, the State Department imposed sanctions on four Russian vessels, including the Akademik Cherskiy, which had begun laying pipes as part of the project in Danish territorial waters in April. The sanctions also targeted five other Russian entities, including the Russian Maritime Rescue Service. According to analysts, at the current pace of construction, Nord Stream 2 will be completed before the end of this year, if not sooner. The US decision to waive some sanctions against Nord Stream 2 was described by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as “constructive”. He assured that Germany would continue talks with Washington to ease concerns about the project. Bloomberg stresses that Germany has been pushing for the Americans to drop their opposition to the project, arguing that the overall relationship is too important to walk away from over a “commercial project”.
The administration’s decision to drop sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and the company chief executive Matthias Warnig was criticised by lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Biden “should do everything in his power to accomplish what the Trump administration has failed to do for four years: stop the completion of Nord Stream 2 for good,” said Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen called the completion of the pipeline “a threat to US security interests and the stability of US partners in the region”. “The administration should stand by its commitments to Congress. Every option available to prevent the completion of the pipeline should be pursued,” she emphasized. James Risch, an influential Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke in a similar manner. “The administration’s decision to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and the company’s chief executive Matthias Warnig, based on US national interests, is simply wrong,” he said.
By Annie Cook (photo: Nord Stream 2 AG)