The Biden administration’s State Department is significantly scaling back on its sanctions against Russia.
Despite earlier statements to the contrary, sources say the agency is planning to waive sanctions that had been expected to halt further construction on a Russian oil pipeline extending into Germany, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Threatens European security”
Although pipeline maker Nord Stream and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, are listed in a U.S. Department of State congressional report as deserving of the sanctions, two sources cited by Axios say officials will set aside the penalties.
In addition to the fact that the pipeline is reportedly very near completion, the Biden administration is said to have arrived at the decision because sanctioning Russian companies involved in the project could also negatively impact allies in Germany.
The Nord Stream pipeline is designed to completely bypass Ukraine in its fuel delivery, raising new concerns about Russia’s ongoing aggressions toward the neighboring nation.
For his part, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has signaled a willingness to oppose the pipeline during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, asserting: “I am determined to do whatever we can to prevent that completion.”
One State Department insider even acknowledged that the president believes “that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European security and that of Ukraine and eastern flank NATO allies and partners.”
“The pipeline is a bad idea”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made it clear in his reaction to the U.S. decision that it could prove to be a serious international miscalculation.
“It would be a loss for the United States, and I believe it would be President Biden’s personal loss,” he said of a refusal to step in and prevent the pipeline’s completion, according to the Associated Press.
He went on to argue that waiving sanctions “would mark a serious geopolitical victory for the Russian Federation and a new redistribution of spheres of influence.”
The move has also attracted criticism from some prominent Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who said: “I urge the administration to rip off the Band-Aid, lift these waivers, and move forward with the congressionally mandated sanctions.”
While the senator said he agrees with the Biden administration “that the pipeline is a bad idea and that it is a Russian malign influence project,” he was unable “to see how today’s decision will advance U.S. efforts to counter Russian aggression in Europe.”