© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Landfall facility Nord Stream 2 in Lubmin
By Timothy Gardner and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Friday identified a Russian ship and company that it believes will help build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. However, the companies have already been sanctioned by the Trump administration, and opponents of the project in Congress said the move would do little to stop work on it.
The State Department said in a report to Congress that the Russian ship Fortuna and its owner had been named KVT-RUS, a process that will initiate new sanctions, two lawmakers said.
Both companies had been sanctioned by former President Donald Trump on his last full day in office last month for helping to build the pipeline to transport Russian gas via Germany to Europe.
"Simply put, today's sanction designations are utterly inadequate," said Rep. Michael McCaul, top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement. "To allow the completion of this pipeline would be a victory," said Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The pipeline is more than 90% complete, and Russian Russian energy company Gazprom (MCX 🙂 and its western partners hope to complete it this year. Much of the remaining work is difficult and in deep waters off Denmark.
The two previous US presidents, Republican Trump and Democrat Barack Obama, had spoken out against the project because it would bypass Ukraine, through which Russia has been sending gas to Europe for decades. This could remove Ukraine's lucrative transit fees and potentially undermine its fight against Russian aggression.
The United States also offers European exports of liquefied natural gas as an alternative to pipeline gas from Russia. In the past few winters, Russia suspended gas supplies to Ukraine and other countries during price disputes.
President Joe Biden believes the pipeline is "bad business" for Europe, said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. The Democrat Biden wants to renew relations with Europe even at the beginning of his presidency and is under pressure from Germany, which needs Russian gas to break away from nuclear and coal-fired power plants.
US sanctions halted work on the pipeline last year after Allseas, a Western pipelaying company, was taken out of service.
McCaul and three other US officials, including Democrat Marcy Kaptur, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week to share plans for possible sanctions. In a letter to Blinken, they listed 15 other ships that they said might be performing pipelaying or similar activities that would be sanctionable under defense law. These ships included the Russian-flagged Akademik Cherskiy and the Umka.
Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, said the State Department report also identified 18 companies that had stopped working on the project after consulting the US with allies. Risch said the consultation took place during the Trump administration.
"This report does not clarify what additional steps the Biden government took to fully implement the law and end this project," said Risch. "I welcome the opportunity to work with the administration to correct today's mistake and return to the proper implementation of bipartisan sanctions."
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