US government launches sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG

Tube for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Washington After the federal government suspended the approval process for the German-Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, the USA are now introducing sanctions against the operating company and its top managers. US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he had instructed his government to impose appropriate sanctions.

He did not initially provide any specific information. According to the US Treasury Department, the punitive measures are also aimed at German Nord Stream CEO Matthias Warnig. In addition, the sanctions should hit the Swiss-based parent company. The head of the supervisory board of Nord Stream 2 AG is former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD). According to the US government, he should not be affected by the sanctions.

Biden had previously refrained from taking such a step out of consideration for Germany. The Americans’ decision is another major blow to the pipeline.

In view of the Russian escalation in the Ukraine conflict, the federal government put the project on hold on Tuesday and stopped the approval process for Nord Stream 2 for the time being. The government in Berlin was reacting to Moscow’s recognition of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Overall, the West announced a whole series of sanctions against Russia because of President Vladimir Putin’s actions. This also included punitive measures by the USA.

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Biden said the Nord Stream 2 decision was another part of that first tranche of sanctions. The USA had coordinated closely with the federal government on the issue.

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US State Department spokesman Ned Price said following the German government’s “determined” action, the US government has taken “complementary measures” within its powers. “Nord Stream 2 is off the table,” he said. The project is now nothing more than “a piece of steel on the bottom of the ocean”.

The operating company of the pipeline, Nord Stream 2 AG, belongs to the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. The pipeline was built to bring gas from Russia to Germany bypassing Ukraine. The line has been completed but is not yet operational. With the U-turn by the federal government, an operating license is probably not in sight for a long time.

Biden has long been an opponent of the tube

Biden has long been opposed to Nord Stream 2. Nevertheless, last May the Democrat had granted special permits (“Presidential Waiver”) with which Nord Stream 2 AG, based in Switzerland, and its German CEO, Matthias Warnig, were spared from US sanctions stayed. This waiver of sanctions was expressly made out of consideration for Germany as an ally. At the time, Biden also stated that the United States would no longer be able to prevent the pipeline from being completed.

The issue of Nord Stream 2 had long caused resentment and anger between Germany and the USA. In order to defuse the dispute, Germany pledged greater support to Ukraine in a joint statement with the United States last July.

In view of the Ukraine crisis, the situation has changed fundamentally once again. Since the federal government has now turned away from Nord Stream 2 of its own accord, Biden no longer has to take Berlin into account in this regard. In his statement, the US President emphasized the recent close coordination with Germany on the subject. He thanked Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) “for his close partnership and continued commitment to holding Russia accountable for its actions.”

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In the United States, there has long been strong opposition to Nord Stream 2, among both Republicans and Democrats. Critics have argued that the pipeline is primarily a geopolitical project by Russia. Putin’s goal is to decouple Ukraine from Europe and make Europe even more dependent on Russian gas. In the past few months, Republicans have tried unsuccessfully several times in Congress to tighten sanctions laws and thus deny Biden the opportunity to authorize exemptions from US sanctions on Nord Stream 2 for reasons of national security. Praise for Biden’s decision came from their ranks on Wednesday.

More: Small-scale tactics instead of a big hit: The EU sanctions hardly harm Russia

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