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U.S. Senate Panel Backs New Sanctions For Nordstream-2 Companies

Moscow would like a gas-transit route that bypasses Ukraine.

A key U.S. Senate committee has advanced legislation that would hit companies involved in the Baltic Sea gas pipeline known as Nordstream 2 with financial sanctions.

The measure, passed by the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 31, followed a similar measure backed in the House of Representatives in June, and must still be approved by both chambers in their entirety.

Washington’s effort to block the pipeline has upset U.S. allies in Europe, most notably Germany, which stands to benefit the most from having another direct import route of Russian gas.

“These pipelines could result in further destabilization of Ukraine and enrichment of the [Russian government], and they put at risk the security of NATO member states,” the committee’s Republican chairman, Jim Risch, said in a statement.

The White House, and many Republicans and Democrats in Congress, charge that the pipeline will deepen Europe’s dependence on Russian gas by concentrating 75 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe in one pipeline. Moscow wants the pipeline in order to circumvent existing networks that go through Ukraine, which has fought with Russia in the past over transit gas supplies.

Germany has so far resisted U.S. pressure, and some critics of the U.S. effort have asserted the pressure is merely aimed at getting more U.S. liquified gas imports into Europe.

The pipeline is scheduled to be completed next year.

The legislation targets companies that lay pipeline in deep-water conditions, something that would also potentially affect the Turk Stream project, which would bring Russian gas under the Black Sea to Turkey.

The bill is one of several circulating in Congress that aim to add to existing sanctions against Russia.

Another that has bipartisan support but has yet to come to a vote is called the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act. One part of that bill would target holders of Russian sovereign debt, while another section takes aim at Russian gas and oil companies.

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