The United States suspended its sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project because they could hardly prevent the project's completion, US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price has told reporters.
"President Biden couldn’t have been any clearer when he met with Chancellor Merkel last week. He said that we continue to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We view it as a Kremlin geopolitical project that is intended to expand Russia’s influence over Europe’s energy resources and to circumvent Ukraine," he said. "It is a bad deal for Ukraine, and for Europe more broadly."
"It’s also worth a reminder of what this administration inherited, and that is a pipeline that was over 90% complete when we assumed office on January 20th. So yes, we have continued to oppose the pipeline, and most recently in May a couple months ago now we imposed sanctions on 19 entities and vessels connected with Nord Stream 2. And I think it’s noteworthy that in total we have levied these 19 sanctions compared to only two targets that were sanctioned by the previous administration," Price continued, TASS reports.
"We recognize all along, however, that sanctions were unlikely to prevent the pipeline’s construction. And so that is why the Secretary issued the waivers in - on May 19th in line with President Biden’s commitment to rebuild relations with our European allies," the spokesperson added.
Agreements with Germany
Price was also asked to comment on Bloomberg’s earlier report that the United States and Germany were close to reaching an agreement on Nord Stream 2. The agreement is expected to envisage German sanctions against Moscow should the German government notice that Moscow uses the pipeline for putting pressure on Ukraine.
"We don’t have any final details to announce yet, but I expect we will be able - in a position to say more soon," he said. "In the meantime and going forward, we will continue to fulfill our legislative obligations. It’s very important to us that we continue to follow the law. As you know, there was a Nord Stream 2 report submitted to Congress in May. There will be another one 90 days later submitted in August."
According to the official, Washington maintains contact with its allies and partners.
"[Counselor of the United States Department of State] Derek Chollet is in Kyiv today. He’ll travel to Warsaw tomorrow. He will continue those diplomatic conversations with Ukraine and Poland on a range of issues, and so that does include Nord Stream 2 and energy security more broadly, as well as the broader set of mutual interests and values we have," Price said.
Announcement due on Wednesday
Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal said, citing own sources, that Washington and Berlin have come to an agreement regarding Nord Stream 2, and will make the announcement on Wednesday, July 21.
According to the paper, the US administration will waive its policy of opposing the pipeline. Germany, in turn, will assume the responsibility of helping Ukraine in energy projects and diplomacy.
Victory for Russia and catastrophe for US
Meanwhile, US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the agreements, if reached, would be a victory for Moscow and "a catastrophe" for Washington and its allies.
"If the reports and details of a deal are accurate, this will be a generational geopolitical win for Putin and a catastrophe for the United States and our allies. President Biden is defying U.S. law and has utterly surrendered to Putin," the senator said in a statement, posted on his website.
Nord Stream 2 project
Nord Stream 2 remains a thorny issue in relations between the United States and Germany. The German government has repeatedly said the project must be completed. Berlin views Nord Stream 2 as an economic project, but insists that Ukraine must retain its role of a transit state for Russian Gas. Washington has repeatedly opposed the project and attempted to block it. Germany and the United States are negotiating the issue behind closed doors, and details of those talks are unknown. US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the matter in Washington last week.
Nord Stream 2 is an international project for the construction of a gas pipeline that will run across the bottom of the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast to Germany bypassing transit states, such as Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other Eastern European and Baltic countries.
The Nord Stream 2 project envisages the construction of two pipeline strings with a total capacity of 55 bln cubic meters per year from the coast of Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. The new 1,230-kilometer pipeline, basically following the same route as Nord Stream, traverses the economic zones and territorial water of five countries, namely Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The pipeline’s construction was suspended at the end of 2019 when the Swiss pipe-laying company Allseas stopped work due to Washington’s sanctions. However, work resumed in December 2020 after a year-long pause. The new pipeline will double the capacity of the Nord Stream pipeline currently in operation.
Russia repeatedly stressed that Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project and is being implemented jointly with European partners.