Legislators have argued that several pipe laying vessels and companies, including Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, meet the legal threshold for sanctions under the 2019 Energy Security Act of Europe known as PEESA.
However, another person familiar with the reversal said that some administration officials felt that legal approval was granted ahead of schedule before the State Department was fully ready to implement the new penalties. Legal clearance is one of the final steps in the interagency process before sanctions are imposed.
The NSC referred to a statement from the State Department. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice declined to comment.
Biden’s government is expected to impose new sanctions on Russian government and intelligence officials as early as Thursday in response to Russia’s SolarWinds espionage campaign and meddling in 2020 elections, according to two people with knowledge of the plans. As part of the reaction, several Russian diplomats are also expelled from the United States. The Foreign Ministry informed partners and stakeholders on Wednesday evening about the upcoming sanctions.
At the same time, however, the government was reluctant to use Nord Stream 2 too aggressively to rebuild US-Germany relations. While the government wants to hinder Moscow’s energy levers – President Joe Biden has described Nord Stream 2 as “bad business for Europe” – it also wants to strengthen US relations with Berlin, which Washington is using to ensure that the construction of the pipeline continues unabated .
“We are keen to restore our relationship with Germany after four years of abuse by the previous government,” said a senior administrative official. “But Congress is not moving. We’re between a rock and a hard place. “
Legislators are indeed pressuring the government to do more to stop the pipeline, which is more than 95 percent complete and moving rapidly. Last month, the Danish Maritime Authority announced that a new Russian pipe-laying vessel called the Akademik Cherskiy will soon join Nord Stream 2, potentially accelerating the construction of the pipeline even further.
The issue is particularly urgent for Ukraine. Nord Stream 2 would allow Russia to bypass Ukraine by shipping Russian gas to the EU across the Baltic Sea, depriving Kiev of crucial revenue.
According to PEESA, the Biden administration is required to submit a report to Congress every 90 days – the next one is due in May – listing the bodies involved in the construction of the pipeline that are eligible for sanctions. The list now includes at least seven Russian ships, according to a letter from Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho to Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month.
So far, however, the State Department has not imposed any new sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Rather, it has confirmed the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the Russian pipe-laying ship Fortuna and its owner KVT-RUS.