Biden Administration Decides Not To Sanction Company Building Controversial Russian Gas Pipeline

Biden Administration Decides Not To Sanction Company Building Controversial Russian Gas Pipeline

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Washington (CNN)The Biden administration has decided against sanctioning the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, despite strongly opposing the project, according to two sources familiar with the decision, signaling that it is prioritizing unity with allies over concerns about a potential geopolitical threat.

Instead the administration will sanction some of the smaller entities involved in the project, including some Russian companies and ships that have been helping in the construction. But the administration has decided to issue a national security waiver for the major company involved in the construction of the pipeline– Nord Stream 2 AG, which is a registered Swiss firm whose parent company is the Russian gas giant Gazprom.

There was an intense back-and-forth over the decision and during the process the State Department prepared an assessment of what action would have been required to stop the pipeline, though the administration decided not to pursue that course, according to one source familiar with the process. It decided that stopping the pipeline was not worth blowing up the relationship with Germany given the many national security issues the two countries work on together, the source explained. The second source familiar with the situation said the decision was ultimately the White House’s call.

    A State Department spokesperson, when asked about the decision, which will be shared with Congress in a report this week, reiterated opposition to the pipeline.

      “The Biden Administration has been clear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and that of Ukraine and eastern flank NATO Allies and partners. We continue to examine entities involved in potentially sanctionable activity and have made it clear that companies risk sanctions if they are involved in Nord Stream 2,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to underscore US strong, bipartisan opposition to this Russian malign influence project.”

        The move to let the pipeline proceed unimpeded could also increase strain between the White House and Democratic lawmakers, many of whom oppose Nord Stream 2 and are already frustrated with the Biden administration for its refusal to push Israel to do more to end violence with Palestinians.

        Despite the decision, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday and reiterated US opposition to the pipeline that will carry gas from Russian fields to Germany via the Baltic Sea, according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.

          “Secretary Blinken underscored the US commitment to work with Allies and partners to counter Russian efforts to undermine our collective security, and in that vein, emphasized US opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” Price said.

          The administration’s decision, first reported by Axios, serves as a win for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who many in Congress fear will now have greater leverage over Eastern Europe. It will also infuriate Kiev –the pipeline will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in shipping gas to the European Union through the Baltic Sea, depriving the Ukrainians of crucial revenue.

          The move comes as Blinken prepares to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Iceland on Wednesday evening, on the margins of an Arctic Council meeting where the two will discuss the possibility that Biden and Putin will hold their first summit in the coming months. It also comes the same week that US Climate Envoy John Kerry visited Berlin to discuss climate action.

          Blinken has repeatedly and publicly spoken of US opposition to the project, including as

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