US Senate Passes Defence Budget Bill Stipulating Sanctions on Nord Stream 2

© AP Photo / J. Scott ApplewhiteDawn breaks over the US Capitol building in Washington DC
Dawn breaks over the US Capitol building in Washington DC - Sputnik International
The US Congress passed a defence bill for 2020 on 11 December that includes new sanctions on contractors who are helping build Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The curbs are aimed at preventing its completion, which is still expected this year.

The US Senate has voted for a $738 billion defence budget, which includes sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and military assistance to Ukraine, according to the results of the vote. The vote in the Republican-controlled Senate was 61-6 in favour of the National Defence Authorisation Act, or NDAA.

The legislation calls for mandatory sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and Turkstream and bars military-to-military cooperation with Russia. The bill also sanctions Turkey over its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems and prohibits the transfer of F-35 jets to the country.

The bill also creates a sixth branch of the US military, the Space Force, and includes $71.5 billion for ongoing foreign wars or "overseas contingency operations".

The bill further requires that reports be provided on the threat posed by China and its military relations with Russia, also proclaiming that Congress unequivocally supports Hong Kong.

Also included in the bill is a provision to impose sanctions on Syrian government troops for alleged war crimes committed during the country's civil conflict.

The 2020 defence budget was already passed by the lower house of Congress, and after the approval of the Senate, the document should be signed by President Donald Trump. He has already stated that he is ready to immediately sign the document. The defence budget reportedly includes funds for "countering Russia" in various fields, sanctions against Nord Stream 2, as well as the allocation of $300 million to help Ukraine.

The US Capitol building is mirrored in the Reflecting Pool in Washington DC Dec. 28, 2018. - Sputnik International
US House Passes $738Bln 2020 Defence Spending Bill
The operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Nord Stream 2 AG, announced earlier in the day, that it planned to complete the pipeline in a few months, but did not intend to speculate on the completion date.

Prior to this, the Bild tabloid reported with reference to an internal document of the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy that Berlin expected Nord Stream 2 to be completed within 30 days in order to avoid US sanctions.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a press conference after meeting with Trump that US sanctions would not hinder the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

Nord Stream 2 Project and Its Opponents

The Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture between Gazprom and five European companies: France's ENGIE, Austria's OMV, the UK-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, and Germany's Uniper and Wintershall. The 745-mile-long twin pipeline will carry up to 55 billion cubic metres (1.942 trillion cubic feet) of gas per year from Russia to Germany, passing through the territorial waters or exclusive economic zones of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Russia, and Sweden.

Germany has championed the pipeline since the beginning of the project despite Washington’s strong opposition. On 31 May, Merkel reiterated her support for Nord Stream 2 at a conference of the Federation of German Industries, saying the pipeline is a necessity for Germany given its aspirations to give up on nuclear and coal energy.

The US has threatened everyone involved with sanctions while promoting its own liquefied natural gas on the European market. Ukraine is also actively opposing Nord Stream 2, fearing to lose revenue from Russian gas transit. Russia has repeatedly stated that the project is absolutely commercial and competitive and that it does not imply the cancellation of the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine to the EU.

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