April 18, 2021

The Biden administration last week reignited hopes that it is going to implement US sanctions designed to prevent completion of the Kremlin’s geopolitically important Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.

“…The Department is tracking efforts to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and is evaluating information regarding entities that appear to be involved. As multiple US administrations have made clear, this pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project intended to divide Europe and weaken European energy security. The sanctions legislation Congress passed in 2019 and expanded in 2020 has significant support from a bipartisan Congressional majority. The Biden Administration is committed to complying with that legislation. The Department reiterates its warning that any entity involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline risks U.S. sanctions and should immediately abandon work on the pipeline,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.

Both of these recent developments represent significant blows to the Nord Stream-2 pipeline in order to cancel its launch. Sanctions law that went into effect this year require the State Department to sanction companies that help Nord Stream 2 lay pipeline or provide insurance or certification for its construction. Nearly 20 companies, mostly insurance firms, recently quit the project after Washington warned them in recent months that they could be sanctioned.

Senator Ted Cruz, who is one of the prominent supporters of US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and co-author of sanction law acts, said that he would lift his holds on two high-level nominations in response to Secretary Blinken’s comments, but vowed to continue blocking a third one “until the full sanctions are broadly imposed against the ships and companies critical to completing the pipeline.”

Cruz said he would maintain a hold on Wendy Sherman, who Biden has nominated to be the №2 official at the State Department until the administration imposes full sanctions on ships and companies involved in the project. However, Sherman easily passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week and Sen. Cruz’s hold would only likely delay a full Senate vote on her nomination.

Recent delays in implementing US sanctions have been widely blamed on lobbying efforts by Germany’s pro-pipeline business community and its current coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Christian Democrats.

A day later, Germany’s Greens enshrined in their election program plans to abolish the contested Nord Stream 2 pipeline to ship Russian gas to Europe’s biggest economy, creating a hurdle to a potential alliance with the conservatives.

Armin Laschet, leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), has claimed concerns of the United States and eastern European countries, such as Poland, that say the pipeline increases Europe’s dependence on Russian gas to be exaggerated.

Member of the European Parliament and co-spokesperson for the European Green Party, Reinhard Buetikofer is skeptical about the Russian ability to overcome the numerous regulatory and legal barriers already imposed against “Nord Stream-2”.

“Before the pipeline can, hypothetically, go into service, it would first have to live up to the standards of the European Gas Directive and that is not the case so far. For instance, the unbundling policy [separating ownership of the gas from the pipeline itself] has not been implemented by the consortium that intends to run Nord Stream 2,” he notes.

“Even if the pipeline is completed, the US administration could still impose sanctions after it goes into operation”, German politician said.

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