Sunday, January 16, 2022

Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 – push for tightened sanctions fails in the US Senate

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The controversial pipeline is hotly debated in the US. A bill for new sanctions has now failed in the Senate. The Biden government does not want to burden the relationship with Germany.

A new push for stricter sanctions against the controversial Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline has failed in the US Senate. As expected, Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s proposed legislation did not achieve the required majority in a vote in the Chamber of Congress on Thursday.

With his proposed legislation, Cruz wanted to impose sanctions on the pipeline operating company Nord Stream 2 AG. At the same time, the text was intended to limit President Joe Biden’s powers to grant exceptions to sanctions with reference to national security interests.

The Senate debate came amid fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion of Ukraine. “This law is the best way to stop Putin from invading Ukraine,” Cruz said before the vote. “If we don’t get together today, Ukraine threatens to be completely erased from the map.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has appealed to the federal government to halt the project. “Berlin can still do the right thing.”

Biden’s Democrats, on the other hand, argued that the sanctions law would neither stop Nord Stream 2 from being commissioned nor prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. Rather, the law would be “a gift to Russia” because it would drive a wedge between the US and its European allies, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the West could use Nord Stream 2 as “leverage” to stop Putin from invading Ukraine.

The pipeline, which has already been completed but has not yet been commissioned, is intended to bypass the Ukraine and bring Russian gas to Germany. The project met with widespread rejection in the USA: The Biden government and parliamentarians from both parties see Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical instrument of power in the hands of the Kremlin. Biden’s Democrats and the opposition Republicans are arguing about the right way to deal with the pipeline.

Last May, Biden waived an exception to sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its German managing director Matthias Warnig so as not to strain relations with Germany. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken stated at the time that waiving the punitive measures was “in the national interest of the USA”.

Republicans like Ted Cruz then pushed for further sanctions to be imposed to prevent the pipeline from being put into operation. An attempt by the conservative senator to anchor the sanctions in the new defense budget passed at the end of last year failed. However, Cruz was able to ensure that the text of his law was now voted on. As a means of pressure, he had blocked the confirmation of numerous ambassadors nominated by Biden, including the designated ambassador to Germany, Amy Gutmann.

Cruz’s bill received a majority because some Democratic senators also voted in favor of the text. However, the majority of 60 votes required in this case was missed.

With the failure of the legislative proposal, new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 are not yet off the table. The Democrats have presented their own draft law in the Senate, which provides for a series of sanctions against Russia, should the Russian armed forces invade Ukraine.

Sanctions should then not only be imposed on Putin, Russian government members and banks, but also on all companies and their executives involved in the “planning, construction or operation” of Nord Stream 2. The US government argues that the threat of sanctions in the event of an invasion of Ukraine is more effective than sanctions imposed before a possible invasion.

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