A group of bipartisan senators has submitted legislation to stop Russia from completing a controversial undersea natural-gas pipeline to Germany.
The five senators, led by Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) and Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat-New Hampshire), introduced the legislation on June 4 to expand existing sanctions against Nord Stream 2, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany if completed.
The United States in December 2019 passed the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act, which placed sanctions on vessels laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline along the floor of the Baltic Sea, halting the $11 billion project shortly before its completion.
To get around the bill's impact, Russia has sent its own vessel to the Baltic Sea to lay the remaining 160 kilometers of pipeline. Nord Stream 2 consists of two parallel lines stretching 1,230 kilometers from Russia to Germany along the Baltic Sea floor.
The new legislation widens the sanctions in the existing law to include any entity that provides insurance, port facilities or tethering services for the project as well as any company that certifies Nord Stream 2 for operation.
"There is bipartisan and bicameral consensus that Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses a critical threat to America's national security and must not be completed. Nevertheless, Putin continues to try to circumvent those sanctions," Cruz said in a statement.
The United States opposes Nord Stream 2, claiming it undermined Ukraine and strengthened Russia's grip on Europe's energy industry.
The pipeline would enable Russia to reroute gas exports to Europe around Ukraine, depriving Kyiv of billions of dollars in needed transit revenue.
Naftogaz, Ukraine's state-owned natural gas company, has lobbied the United States to first pass and then expand the sanctions.
Moscow has accused Washington of using sanctions to open the door for more U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe.
The United States has ramped up gas production over the past decade and has begun exporting LNG to Europe. Texas, which Cruz represents, is the country's largest producer of natural gas.
The new legislation would need to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president before it could become law.
Russia hopes to finish the pipeline by the first quarter of 2021 at the latest, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January.
It took Congress seven months to pass the first Nord Stream 2 bill.
Perhaps amid concerns that Russia could complete the project before the new legislation is approved, the authors have made the new sanctions retroactive to December 2019.