The Biden government on Wednesday dropped sanctions on a company building the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. It also demands the imposition of sanctions on its director general, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This move came in a report on sanctions against Russia submitted by the US State Department to the local Congress. According to the report, the Nord Stream 2 project and its director Matthias Warnig, a former East German intelligence officer, have been sanctioned. Nevertheless, it has concluded that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the sanctions.
At the same time, the US State Department imposed sanctions on four Russian ships laying pipelines for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Danish waters. Additional sanctions were imposed on five Russian entities, including the local Maritime Rescue Service.
However, according to critics of the decision, this will not be enough to halt construction of the gas pipeline, which is already 95 percent complete.
Space for discussions
US President Biden has said in the past that he opposes building the Nord Stream 2 project, which is expected to cost $ 11 billion. His Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during the hearing prior to his Senate appointment that he was determined to do everything in his power to prevent the completion of the Nord Stream 2 project.
According to Washington, Russia could use the pipeline as a tool to weaken European Union countries by strengthening their dependence on Moscow. The United States exports its LNG to Europe, but Russian gas is cheaper.
The lifting of sanctions, in particular, reflects the Biden administration’s efforts to correct relations with Germany, which deteriorated during the tenure of former President Donald Trump. The US State Department hopes that Wednesday’s decision will provide time for discussions with Germany about the pipeline’s potential negative effects. It has also reportedly wanted to provide a space for deeper cooperation on broader issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change.
“Today’s decisions demonstrate our administration’s commitment to strengthening energy security in Europe,” Minister Blinkin said in a statement after his meeting on Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “They are in line with the president’s promise to restore relations with our European allies and partners,” he added.
Germany has always urged the United States to reduce its opposition to the Nord Stream 2. According to the Germans, the overall relationship between the two countries is so important that it cannot be sacrificed for the sake of this commercial enterprise.
On Wednesday, Russian officials indicated that the lifting of sanctions could help mend difficult relations between Washington and Moscow.
Nonetheless, Biden’s decision sparked a wave of criticism from both the Republican and Democratic camps. According to the representatives of the parties, it is important to prevent the completion of the project. “Biden must do his best to achieve what the Trump government has failed to do for four years: halt completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” said Senator Bob Menendez of the Democratic Party, which includes the incumbent president.
Republican Senator Jim Risch said, “Lifting sanctions is a gift to Putin, and it will only weaken the influence of the United States in the run-up to the Biden-Putin summit next.” Joe Biden, arriving in Europe in June, is also planning a meeting with his Russian counterpart as part of the trip.
After taking office, Biden sought to oppose the practices of his predecessor, Donald Trump. He said that the United States is no longer putting a second face to Russia and its aggressive practices. The current lifting of pipeline sanctions comes two weeks after hackers, according to the US government, based in Russia, attacked US product pipelines, causing fuel shortages across the southeastern United States.
The Russian state energy company, Gazprom, is working with a number of Western partners to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will supply Germany and other countries with natural gas under the Baltic Sea, and it should be ready by the end of this year.
The project, whose first “pipeline” has been operating since 2011, bypasses Ukraine (and Poland), depriving both countries of transit fee revenues and, in the case of Ukraine, a major deterioration in their geopolitical capital. According to analysts, the project may be completed by the end of this year.
Yuri Vitrenko, the new CEO of Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz, described Nord Stream 2 as Russia’s most dangerous geopolitical project. According to him, Ukraine will ask the United States to impose the lifted sanctions again.
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