06:10 GMT20 April 2021
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    On Wednesday, 40 GOP senators wrote President Biden a letter demanding new sanctions against Nord Stream 2. The lawmakers claimed that a failure to impose the restrictions would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to “gain a stranglehold over Europe’s gas supplies.”

    Republican senators led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz are blocking Biden CIA pick William Burns’ confirmation over the administration’s perceived lack of action on Nord Stream 2.

    “I’ll release my hold when the Biden administration meets its legal obligation to report and sanction the ships and companies building Putin’s pipeline,” Cruz tweeted late Friday, demanding that Biden “follow the law” and “stop being soft on Russia.”

    Earlier, Bloomberg reported that Cruz’s block would be able to drag out, but not halt or cancel, Burns’ selection, since the Senate Intelligence Committee had already unanimously approved his nomination beforehand.

    The business outlet indicated, citing sources, that Cruz repeatedly brought up the Nord Stream 2 issue with several other Biden nominees, including deputy secretary of state pick Wendy Sherman and USAID pick Samantha Power.

    The Biden administration has expressed “profound concerns” with the Nord Stream 2 project, with President Biden himself calling the project a “bad deal for Europe” and the State Department saying it is continuing a review of potential “sanctionable activity” by companies and entities involved in its construction.

    Republicans accuse Biden of being soft on the project, suggesting that US law mandates that more sanctions be imposed. In a letter to Biden on Wednesday, Cruz and other senators warned that time was running out to stop construction of the project, and claimed that Nord Stream 2 would allow Russia’s president to “gain a stranglehold over Europe’s gas supplies and increase [Russia’s] geopolitical leverage.” Republicans want every entity involved in the pipeline to be sanctioned immediately.

    Some of the Russian-flagged construction ships working on the project have already been slapped with sanctions by the Trump administration, with these restrictions renewed by Biden. The sanctions do not appear to have had much impact on their operation, with pipeline construction resumed in December and again in early February after a short pause due to stormy weather in the Baltic Sea.

    It’s not immediately clear whether the US lawmakers also want Biden to sanction the European energy giants involved in Nord Stream 2. Along with Russia’s Gazprom, companies including Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV, and the Anglo-Dutch concern Royal Dutch Shell have provided financing to the project.

    Senator Cruz has waged a personal crusade against Nord Stream 2 in recent years. In 2020, he wrote a threatening letter to the owner of the German port providing logistical support for Nord Stream 2, warning that the company would face “financial destruction” if it did not stop its activities immediately.

    An electrical substation is seen after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 20, 2021.
    © REUTERS / Go Nakamura
    The letter sparked outrage in the Bundestag, with one senior lawmaker likening the letter to a “declaration of economic war” and urging Berlin to consider counter sanctions. Chancellor Angela Merkel responded by promising the project would be completed.

    Nord Stream 2 is a 1,230 km, 9.5 billion euro energy project with the capacity to provide Europe with up to 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year via a pipeline stretching from Russia to northeastern Germany via the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Once finished, the project will double the existing Nord Stream network’s capacity, and provide Germany with an additional source of energy.

    The highly industrialised German economy depends heavily on natural gas for its energy security due to the government’s decision to shut down nuclear power plants, and to dramatically reduce dependence on dirtier, coal-burning power plants. Along with gas, the pipeline will be equipped to carry clean hydrogen.

    The United States has tried to torpedo Nord Stream 2 since its inception amid fears that European reliance on Russian energy could pull the continent out of Washington’s orbit. The Trump administration lobbied Germany and other nations to purchase US liquefied natural gas. However, German and Austrian officials have suggested that US supplies could be up to fifty percent more expensive, and less environmentally friendly, since they are derived by fracking.


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