(CNSNews.com) – The Biden administration says its arrangements with Germany, allowing completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in return for certain German undertakings, “constitute the best outcome for the circumstances we inherited.”
But Ukraine and Poland, two of the countries that will potentially be most negatively affected by the Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, expressed dismay at the development.
And the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanked U.S. lawmakers for their opposition to the project, appealing to them to pursue a sanctions policy to prevent its “completion and commissioning.”
“I urge the U.S. Congress to refrain from approving any agreements that would threaten Europe’s energy security and threaten the national interests of Ukraine and the United States,” wrote Dmytro Razumkov.
While underlining that the administration sees the pipeline as a “bad deal” that will benefit Moscow, State Department spokesman Ned Price at a briefing on Thursday doubled down on the assertion that there was nothing sanctions could have done to prevent the completion of a project that was 90 percent done by the time it took office.
Under the Trump administration, the mere threat of sanctions was credited for bringing work to an abrupt halt for most of last year, after the president signed sanctions legislation into law.
The Biden administration did impose sanctions on some of the more minor parties involved in the project, but chose to waive sanctions against those at its core – the Nord Stream 2 AG consortium led by the Russian state-owned Gazprom, and its corporate officers including its German CEO – arguing that punishing them would have upset ties with an important ally, Germany.
Price said that in the process of crafting the agreement with Germany the administration had “consulted very closely” with Ukraine and Poland.
Yet a day earlier, the Ukrainian and Polish foreign ministers in a joint statement made clear that their governments were troubled by the deal.
The U.S. decision to end efforts to stop the pipeline, said Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba and his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau, “has created political, military and energy threat for Ukraine and Central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilize the security situation in Europe, perpetuating divisions among NATO and European Union member-states.”
They voiced concern that the U.S.-German proposals were not “sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by” Nord Stream 2.
Opponents of the pipeline, in the U.S. and Europe, say it will only increase Europe’s energy reliance on Moscow, which has a history of using its resources as a political lever in bilateral disputes.
They worry about the impact on Ukraine, which earns crucial transit revenue from Russian gas crossing its territory through existing pipelines to markets further west.
The administration says the arrangement struck with Germany aims to mitigate those risks. Among other things, Germany has undertaken to contribute 150 million euros ($176.5 million) to a new $1 billion “green fund” designed to support Ukraine’s energy security.
Berlin will also use the leverage it has with Russia, before the pipeline goes live, to help Ukraine negotiate an extension of its gas transit contract with Moscow beyond 2024. The current five-year agreement, worth at least $7 billion to Kyiv, is due to expire in late December of that year.
‘Abuse of the sanctions waiver’
Criticism in Congress over the U.S.-Germany accord continued on Thursday, from both sides of the aisle.
“By waving sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline Biden handed Putin the biggest gift he’s received in years,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “He also signaled to Putin that when push comes to shove, the American president is weak and will bow to political pressure.”
The four co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Ukraine Caucus voiced their views in a letter to President Biden on Thursday.
“In light of the American-German deal recently announced, we are concerned that this agreement would allow Russia and Germany to complete and bring into operation the pipeline against Congressional interest,” wrote Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Mike Quigley (D-ll.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
“Most troublingly, Ukraine was not part of these negotiations; yet, her security will be most impacted.”
On the House floor earlier this week Kaptur, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy, said Congress must “reject any deal [on the pipeline] that fails to prioritize energy security in the transatlantic alliance.”
Kaptur has introduced a bipartisan amendment to appropriations legislation that would repeal the Nord Stream 2 sanctions waiver authority.
“These sanctions are mandatory not discretionary,” she said.
"Given the administration’s abuse of the sanctions waiver, I was pleased the Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted my bipartisan amendment to repeal the waivers moving forward.”
Speaking alongside his visiting Hungarian counterpart in Kyiv on Thursday, Kuleba said Ukraine’s concerns about the U.S.-Germany agreement included the fact it was impossible to predict whether the Kremlin would honor any commitment it makes regarding Ukraine’s future role as a gas transit country.
While the U.S. and Germany may have reached an agreement, he said, “we all understand that the main beneficiary of the crisis created by Nord Stream 2 is the Russian Federation.”
“And this is the main problem and the main question, the answer to which is currently unknown. So it is necessary to work on it.”