Tuesday, February 23, 2021

WSJ: US report allows Russian pipeline project to continue for now – International


In a report to Congress, the State Department did not mention other companies that could face sanctions on a $ 11 billion pipeline aimed at transmitting Russian natural gas to Germany, allowing the pipeline project to continue for the time being. no problems, right Wall Street Journal, quoted by Rador.

A number of Republican lawmakers criticized the State Department over the report on Nord Stream 2, a report that had been requested by Congress and for which both Republicans and a number of prominent Democrats demanded explanations about the administration’s position.

At the request of Congress, between 2019 and 2020, the Trump administration signed a series of laws that, before resuming work earlier this month, prevented the construction of the pipeline for more than a year. The Biden administration described the project as a “bad deal”, but Nord Stream 2 became a hotbed of pressure between the new administration and a congressional coalition of both parties, which harshly criticized the project.

The report should have provided a list of companies involved in the project, which is therefore subject to sanctions. Instead, the State Department mentioned two companies previously sanctioned by the Trump administration – the main vessel that would handle the pipeline segments and its owner – along with 18 other companies, generally insurance companies, that have withdrawn or are on the way. to withdraw from the project.

The non-mention of other companies subject to sanctions allows the continuation of the project, while giving the administration time for discussions with Germany on this issue, and it can also formulate its own policy related to this project. The State Department sent the report to congressmen on Friday, but did not release it publicly or respond to requests for clarification of its findings.

Late last week, The Wall Street Journal examined a copy of the report. German officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Senator Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho, the most important Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the report confusing. “It is clear from the maritime surveillance information that the vessels are not included in today’s report, as they continue to actively support the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” he said in a statement.

“The administration’s decision to ignore such activities requires an immediate explanation.” If completed, the pipeline would allow Gazprom, which has a monopoly on gas exports from Russia, to give up primarily the Ukrainian transit system, which has been delivering gas to Europe for decades. US lawmakers fear that Nord Stream 2 will strengthen Russia’s position in the European energy market, putting an end to any political difficulties that Ukraine may still have in its disputes with Russia and increasing Moscow’s influence on the continent.

90% of the pipeline is completed, with about 200 kilometers to be completed. Friday’s report cites Germany’s commitment to the project and the rejection of US sanctions against it, with the US position being seen as “an attack on the sovereignty of Germany and the European Union”, as the report points out. The German government, which is increasingly reducing its use of coal and nuclear energy, considers the supply of Russian gas to be of vital importance.

The Biden administration wants to improve relations with Berlin – a key European ally – relations that have become strained due to former President Donald Trump’s skepticism of the NATO alliance, threatening Germany with sanctions, but also criticism of the German chancellor. Angela Merkel on Trump’s policy on America’s priority (‘America First’).

Trump has publicly opposed the pipeline at one point, urging Berlin to stop its implementation if Germany wants to avoid a trade war with the United States. Berlin and Russian officials have described the Nord Stream 2 project as the only commercial project that would strengthen Europe’s energy security. The Biden administration has begun talks with Berlin on the future of the pipeline, including “the danger of sanctions against companies involved in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” according to a German official.

In a statement on Saturday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (a New Hampshire Democrat), the main supporter of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, said the law “provides the preconditions for effective action to stop the pipeline without necessarily damaging relations.” transatlantic ”. “I am waiting for the Biden Administration to inform me of the other steps it could take to eliminate the danger that would have led to the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” said Ms Shaheen.

President Biden did not provide details on the pipeline policy. “For a long time, I have made it clear that Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal, and companies risk sanctions if they get involved in the project,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday before presenting the report. “Our goal is to strengthen Europe’s energy security and prevent hostile behavior.”

A spokesman for the National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The resumption, on February 6, of the pipeline works should have attracted some sanctions. So far, the administration has not imposed them. The administration could apply sanctions in accordance with a national interest clause contained in a 2020 law.

Describing Friday’s report as a gift to Russia, Risch wrote that the report shows that the administration has “changed its mind” and now “believes that the favorable opinion on the completion of the Nord Stream 22 pipeline is a good idea.”



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