New US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 to keep pressure on Russia

The United States on November 22 imposed new sanctions on the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

The US, Ukraine and several EU states, including Poland and the Baltic states, have opposed Nord Stream 2, arguing that the project increases Russia’s control over gas supplies to Europe and undermines the bloc’s energy security.

The US and Europe are also concerned as Russia builds up forces near the border and Ukraine has begun to warn publicly that an invasion could happen soon.

GLOBSEC Defense and Security Fellow Roger Hilton told New Europe the US sanctions levied against Russia do not target Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, the Nord Stream 2 project company, but instead a Russian shipping company Transadria and its vessel which is important to distinguish.

“CIA Director (William) Burns recently visited Moscow and warned the Kremlin of consequences should the situation escalate with Ukraine,” Hilton said. “Consequently, I think the current round of sanctions are somewhat forced by Washington and designed to ensure that their threat remains credible. Because the sanctions are not targeted at Gazprom, they lack any real persuasive punch and will not seriously influence (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin decisions,” he added.

Hilton stressed that keeping Kyiv and the west off balance when it comes to his intentions in Ukraine is a top policy priority for Putin that serves to advance his interests domestically by diverting attention from COVID 19 and externally by keeping Russia relevant on the global stage. He noted that higher global energy prices only work to Russia’s advantage, especially with the new German coalition government being sworn in soon who are looking to achieve a quick win and bring prices down.

The Department of State said on November 22 it has submitted a report to Congress pursuant to the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019 (PEESA), as amended. The report lists two vessels and one Russia-linked entity, Transadria, involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the US Department State Department said. Transadria will be sanctioned under PEESA, and its vessel, the Marlin, will be identified as blocked property.

The US State Department said the sanctions on November 22 are in line with the United States’ continuing opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the US Government’s continued compliance with PEESA.  “With today’s action, the Administration has now sanctioned 8 persons and identified 17 of their vessels as blocked property pursuant to PEESA in connection with Nord Stream 2,” the US State Department said.

Even as the Biden Administration continues to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, including via US sanctions, Washington continues to work with Germany and other allies and partners to reduce the risks posed by the pipeline to Ukraine and frontline NATO and EU countries and to push back against harmful Russian activities, including in the energy sphere, the US State Department said.

The sanctions follow a decision by Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BnetzA) to suspend its certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

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