U.S. President Joe Biden said his administration decided to waive sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline because the project is almost finished, and sanctions would have harmed relations with European allies.
“It’s almost completely finished,” Biden said of the gas pipeline that will bring gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
“It’s not like I can allow Germany to do something or not.... To go ahead and impose sanctions now would, I think, be counterproductive in terms of our European relations," he told reporters, adding that he was against the project since its inception.
The State Department last week said that the Russian company behind the pipeline, Nord Stream 2 AG, and its German CEO, Matthias Warnig, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, engaged in sanctionable activity. But the Biden administration waived the sanctions because doing so was in the U.S. national interest.
In Washington, the sanctions waivers were met with criticism from Republicans and some Democrats.
The pipeline, which is about 95 percent complete and could be finished by September, was at the center of a political tussle between Berlin and Washington during the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Since coming into office in January, Biden has sought to heal relations with Europe after they were bruised under his predecessor.
U.S. officials have warned the pipeline will make Europe more dependent on Russian energy supplies and bypass Ukraine, which relies on gas transit fees.
The German government has refused to halt the project, arguing that it is a commercial venture and sovereign issue.
Biden, who will meet separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin during a trip to Europe in June, said the Germans were aware of U.S. concerns.
"They know how strongly I feel and I hope we can work on how they handle it from this point on," he said.
Earlier on May 24, Merkel said she expects further discussions with the United States on the Nord Stream 2 project after the sanctions waiver.