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Biden imposes Nord Stream 2 sanctions

President Biden on Wednesday announced sanctions against the company behind a controversial Russian natural gas pipeline in response to Moscow's decision to send troops into eastern Ukraine.

Biden said in a statement that his administration would put sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the parent company of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and its corporate officers.

"These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine. As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate," Biden said.

Last year, the Biden administration waived sanctions on the pipeline -- generating pushback from Democrats and Republicans alike, who said it should take a harder line on Russia.

The administration's decision to waive sanctions on the pipeline was widely viewed as a move meant to appease Germany after relations faltered under the previous Trump administration.

But following Russia's incursion into breakaway regions in Ukraine this week, Germany also turned against the pipeline. On Tuesday, it announced that it would block its certification.

The pipeline is completely built but was awaiting regulatory review before it could be operational.

In recent weeks, Biden had promised to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had stopped short of explicitly promising to block the pipeline in an appearance at the White House earlier this month.

Biden on Tuesday announced other sanctions against Russian financial institutions, elites and sovereign debt.

The administration also sent additional troops to Germany, Poland and Romania.

Biden administration officials have said the U.S. is prepared to impose more stringent sanctions if Russia launches a broader invasion of Ukraine.

Domestically, the new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 move helped advance some of Biden's State Department nominees, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he would lift a hold he had placed on them in response to last year's waiver.

"President Biden made the right decision today," Cruz said in a statement. "Allowing Putin's Nord Stream 2 to come online would have created multiple, cascading, and acute security crises for the United States and our European allies for generations to come."

However, he also called for "additional steps inside the Biden administration and in Congress to permanently lock in sanctions."

The decision to sanction Nord Stream 2 AG also won Biden praise among Democratic critics of the pipeline.

"I've long opposed NS2, which is why I wrote the bipartisan sanctions law to stop it," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) tweeted. "Every diplomatic lever must be pulled to punish Putin for violating Ukraine's sovereignty & threatening Europe's security."

Biden delivered a speech on Tuesday announcing the first tranche of sanctions on Russia, saying Putin's moves against Ukraine represented the beginning of an invasion.

Asked whether the White House could say definitively that the pipeline would not move forward permanently, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday the pipeline is "not moving forward right now."

"It's currently dead at the bottom of the sea," she continued. "It is not happening. It's not moving forward. It hasn't been operational for some time."

Despite recent hurdles for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Russia is still a major supplier of fuel to the rest of Europe -- providing about 35 percent of the continent's natural gas.

[Source: By Rachel Frazin, The Hill, Washington, 23Feb22]

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