Republican lawmakers are pushing to reimpose sanctions on Russia’s nearly operational undersea pipeline into Germany in a last-ditch attempt to thwart the Kremlin’s dominance over European energy markets as the Senate takes up the annual defense policy bill.
Earlier this month, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James E. Risch of Idaho, was joined by five other Republicans in introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would impose mandatory sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the Swiss subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom that is spearheading the project.
“For the third year in a row, a bipartisan majority in Congress has acted to stop the malign [Nord Stream 2] project,” Mr. Risch said. “Since the Biden administration refused to impose mandatory congressional sanctions on [Nord Stream 2] earlier this year, Russia has cut gas transit through Ukraine and amassed troops and military equipment on the Ukrainian border.”
The Biden administration waived sanctions against the company in May. It argued that the sanctions would have little effect in curbing progress on the pipeline, which runs through the Baltic Sea.
In July, the administration announced that it had reached a deal with Germany to allow for the completion of the pipeline, reversing the prior two administrations’ opposition and prompting a bipartisan backlash in Congress.
“We consider Nord Stream 2 a geopolitical project geared toward expanding Russia’s influence on Europe by dominating the energy market,” said Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey after the July deal was announced.
“The completion of the pipeline will strengthen the impact of Russian gas in the European energy mix, endanger the national security of EU member states and the United States, and threaten the already precarious security and sovereignty of Ukraine,” he said.
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, and the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, led a similar effort to impose mandatory sanctions on Nord Stream 2 in September. The measure successfully passed as part of the House version of the NDAA.
“The security of our transatlantic allies is on the line, and the Senate has a responsibility to act,” the lawmakers said Wednesday.
German regulators on Tuesday halted the certification process for the recently completed pipeline after Nord Stream 2 failed file paperwork needed to set up a German subsidiary as required to operate in the country.
The snag sent shock waves through European markets. U.K. natural gas futures surged by more than 17% over fears that Europe would face a gas shortage in light of the delay.
“Kremlin-controlled Nord Stream 2 AG’s attempts to superficially restructure in order to subvert EU regulations should fool no one,” Mr. McCaul and Ms. Kaptur said Wednesday.
“This Russian malign influence pipeline project must be stopped once and for all — not simply delayed,” the lawmakers said.
The Senate planned to begin voting on the more than 800 amendments to the NDAA on Wednesday. But a procedural vote to advance the bill to the floor was delayed amid disagreements over adding more amendments.
Lawmakers are under pressure to finish the must-pass legislation before departing for Thanksgiving recess.