Washington (AP) – US President Joe Biden’s administration is coming under pressure over the controversial German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2.
The background to this is a report by the US news site “Axios”, according to which the US government wants to refrain from applying sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG in Zug, Switzerland, and its German director Matthias Warnig. Republicans in Congress were outraged. The top Republican on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, announced that if the “Axios” report were correct, it would be an indication that the Biden administration never really wanted to prevent the pipeline.
“This pipeline is not a simple commercial project that could affect our relations with (the government in) Berlin. It is a Russian project of malicious influence that threatens to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow, ”McCaul criticized. “If Putin’s regime is allowed to complete this pipeline, it will only be because the Biden government has decided to allow it.” Republican Senator Ben Sasse accused Biden of giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “enormous strategic power in Europe.”
“Axios” had reported that in an upcoming report to Congress on sanctions for the Nord Stream 2 construction, the US State Department wanted to impose punitive measures only on a few other Russian ships. The Ministry also wanted to indicate that Nord Stream 2 AG and its Managing Director were involved in activities that could be sanctioned. To justify refraining from punitive measures, the ministry wants to cite national interests. The report to Congress must be submitted every 90 days, the deadline expiring this week.
“Axios” interpreted the alleged decision of Biden’s government as meaning unwilling to sever its relations with Germany because of Nord Stream 2. The near-completed Baltic Sea pipeline has been one of the main points of contention in the German-American for years. relations.
In a telephone conversation with his German colleague Heiko Maas, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken again emphasized that the US continued to reject the pipeline from Russia to Germany, as the State Department announced in Washington. “Secretary of State Blinken underlined the US determination to work with allies and partners to counter Russia’s efforts that are undermining our collective security.” At his Senate hearing prior to ratification in January, Blinken said of the pipeline, which was nearing completion by then, “I am determined to do everything we can to prevent this completion.”
So far, the US has only sanctioned the Russian laying vessel “Fortuna” and its operating company KVT-RUS over Nord Stream 2 – Republican President Donald Trump’s administration announced these punitive measures shortly before the end of his term in January. The ship and company were also mentioned in the first Blinking report from the United States Department of State to Congress on Feb. 19. However, contrary to expectations, other companies were not penalized or threatened with penalties at the time. Even after that, Republicans criticized Biden for completing the pipeline.
Biden has repeatedly called Nord Stream 2 a “bad deal for Europe”. At the end of 2019, construction work on the pipeline, which was well advanced, was halted after the US enacted an initial sanctions law (Peesa) against the special ships laying the pipelines. In a second law (Peesca) the sanction options were made much wider. Both laws were backed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
When completed, Nord Stream 2 is expected to transport 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Russia to Germany. The US fears that the project will make Europe too dependent on Russian gas. Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Baltic states are also rejecting the pipeline. Proponents object to the Americans that they are only looking for better sales opportunities for their liquefied gas in Europe.
The Russian company Gazprom is formally the sole shareholder of Nord Stream 2 AG, based in Zug, Switzerland. In addition, there are the German groups Wintershall Dea – a joint venture between BASF and LetterOne – and Uniper (a spin-off from Eon) and the Dutch-British Shell, Engie (formerly GDF Suez) from France and OMV from Austria. . The Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Nord Stream is former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), at Nord Stream 2 he is Chairman of the Board of Directors.