US State Secretary Antony Blinken confirmed on Wednesday that Washington waived sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, saying that the move is "in the national interest" of the United States.
Blinken also affirmed that four vessels listed in the State Department report to Congress involved in construction of Nord Stream 2 pipelines will be subject to sanctions, along with nine additional ships owned or controlled by the Federal State Budgetary Institution Marine Rescue Service.
The report was required under Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act (PEESA), to identify vessels and persons involved in the construction of the pipeline and to describe the consultations carried out with allies and partners.
The report to Congress identified four entities and four ships that are subject to sanctions over their involvement in Nord Stream 2 construction. The vessels are the "Yuri Topchev", the "Vladislav Strizhov", the "Baltiyskiy Issledovatel" and the "Akademik Cherskiy", while the entities mentioned in the report are LLC Koksokimtrans, LLC Mortransservice, the Federal State Budgetary Institution Marine Rescue Service and the Samara Heat and Energy Property Fund.
In his statement, State Secretary indicated that Washigton will "continue to oppose the completion of this project, which would weaken European energy security and that of Ukraine and Eastern flank NATO and EU countries".
US Secretary of State Blinken says the US has waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 but will continue to oppose the completion of the project.— Ali Topchi (@atopchi) May 19, 2021
I mean... pic.twitter.com/M4sv1UI8oC
Earlier, Senator Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement opposing a decision to waive sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, becoming the first US official to confirm the White House move.
"I urge the administration to rip off the Band-Aid, lift these waivers and move forward with the congressionally mandated sanctions", Menendez said, citing a mandatory report from the State Department to Congress on Nord Stream 2 in his statement.
Menendez said that the decision "has created uncertainty in many corners of Europe", urging Biden to "accomplish what the Trump administration failed to do for years: stop the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for good".
I am opposed to the decision by the Biden administration to waive sanctions on NS2 AG & Matthias Warnig. I urge the Administration to rip off the Band-Aid, lift these waivers & move forward with the congressionally mandated sanctions. My full statement: https://t.co/yjyMoSYwyg https://t.co/RJsZvfgIWk— Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SFRCdems) May 19, 2021
Republican Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also weighed in on the decision, saying that it was "just wrong" to waive the sanctions.
“This move contradicts everything that President Biden and Secretary Blinken have previously said about Nord Stream 2’s malign influence, and is a gift to Putin that will only weaken the United States’ leverage in the lead up to the impending Biden-Putin summit", Risch stated. "The administration is prioritizing perceived German and Russian interests over those of our allies in Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe."
Earlier on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed people claiming to be familiar with the matter, that the Biden administration would waive sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline due to national security reasons, while adding that they were involved in sanctionable activities. The report said that the sanctions on Russian ships laying the Nord Stream 2 infrastructure are expected to remain.
The Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline designed to deliver up to 55 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas to Europe annually - an endeavour opposed by many in Washington who claim that the pipeline violates European energy security while insisting that American liquefied natural gas be bought instead. Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department principal deputy spokeswoman, Jalina Porter, said that the Biden administration would use "all available tools" to stop the construction of the pipeline.
The EU, and Germany in particular, have defended Nord Stream 2, despite sanctions introduced by the US against the project. Many German political figures condemn the sanctions, arguing that Washington is not the one to make decisions over European energy security.
Moscow slammed the countermeasures against Nord Stream 2 as an example of unfair competition, outlining that the pipeline is an exclusively economic project.