U.S. lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to reconsider his decision to waive some sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, saying the move was against "both U.S. national and transatlantic security interests."
“We firmly believe it is in the U.S. national interest to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty [and] to protect Europe’s eastern flank from Russian aggression,” the co-chairs of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus said in a joint statement released on May 20.
It is also in the U.S. national interest to “limit Russia’s malign influence and energy coercion in Europe” and to “stop the spread of strategic corruption by malign actors in Europe to protect the integrity of democratic institutions and the transatlantic relationship,” the statement added.
The joint statement was made by Representatives Marcy Kaptur (Democrat-Ohio), Andy Harris (Republican- Maryland), Mike Quigley (Democrat- Illinois), and Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican- Pennsylvania).
On May 19, the Biden administration sanctioned several companies and ships for their work on Nord Stream 2, but waived penalties on the firm behind the Baltic Sea project -- Nord Stream 2 AG -- and its chief executive, Matthias Warnig.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move was “in line with our commitment to strengthen our Transatlantic relationships as a matter of national security.”
Blinken also said that the administration would "continue to oppose the completion” of the $12-billion project, arguing it would weaken European energy security.
The decision not to sanction Nord Stream 2 AG – a Gazprom subsidiary -- and Warnig was hailed by both the Kremlin and Berlin, but it angered many Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed concern that Washington could move to completely lift the sanctions against Nord Stream 2, which he said would be "a major geopolitical victory" for Russia.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backed separatists in two of its eastern provinces, sparking a war that has killed more than 13,000 people.
In their statement, the co-chairs of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus said Nord Stream 2 is a "Russian malign influence project" and a "bad deal for Europe." They described Warnig as a "crony" of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a "former Stasi goon," referring to East Germany’s State Security Service.
"While we appreciate the Administration’s efforts to maintain relations with our close ally Germany as a nation also facing Russian malign influence, it cannot be at the expense of transatlantic and Ukrainian security," they added.
"We strongly urge the Administration to reconsider its position," the representatives concluded.
About 95 percent of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been completed and it could be finished by September.
The pipeline will markedly increase the amount of natural gas that Russia will be able to pump directly to Germany, bypassing Eastern European nations like Ukraine and Belarus.
U.S. officials, and some European leaders, have warned it will increase Germany's dependence on Russian gas, and make it vulnerable to Moscow's political whims.
The German government has refused to halt the project, arguing it is a commercial venture and that Russian gas already flows freely into Europe along other routes, including an existing Baltic Sea pipeline.