Joe Biden's administration has waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the company behind the undersea gas pipeline, and its CEO Matthias Warnig, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday, as quoted by the Reuters news agency.
A State Department report sent to Congress concluded that Nord Stream 2 AG and Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, engaged in sanctionable activity, Reuters reported. But Blinken immediately waived those sanctions, saying that it was in the US national interest, the news agency reported.
It noted that the decision came as the Biden administration seeks to rebuild ties with Germany after those were strained under Donald Trump's presidency.
The US State Department has instead slapped sanctions on four Russian ships, including the pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy, while also imposing measures on five other Russian entities, including the Russian Marine Rescue Service, according to Reuters.
Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday: "Today's actions demonstrate the administration’s commitment to energy security in Europe, consistent with the President’s pledge to rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe."
'Gift to Putin'
The sanction decisions come as many lawmakers in the US Congress have pushed the Biden administration to use financial punishments to stop the pipeline.
Senator Jim Risch, the lead Republican on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was on Wednesday quoted as saying on that the waivers would be "a gift to Putin that will only weaken the United States’ leverage in the lead up to the impending Biden-Putin summit."
Earlier, Republican Representative Michael McCaul said in a statement: "If the Putin regime is allowed to finish this pipeline, it will be because the Biden Administration chose to let it happen."
'Russian malign influence project'
McCaul added: "It is a Russian malign influence project that threatens to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow, render Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression and provide billions of dollars to Putin’s coffers."
Republican Senator Tom Cotton has warned that Biden’s “weak policy on Russia” was harming America and its people, according to a report.
Nord Stream 2, designed to double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline, is expected to send around 55 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas a year directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea while bypassing the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
Poland has strongly criticized the gas link amid concerns that the pipeline will make the European Union more dependent on Russian gas.
Source: energetyka24.com, reuters.com, axios.com, politico.com
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