US lifts bans over Nord Stream 2 gas line

Photo: EPA

US made a rapid shift of its approach to the Nord Stream 2 project that is intended to boost transition of Russian natural gas to Germany, Reuters reported. The administration of President Joe Biden announced it would waive the imposed sanctions on the company behind the construction of the pipeline and its chief executive. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the information. The decision comes as the Biden administration seeks to rebuild ties with Germany, after relations deteriorated under Republican former President Donald Trump.

The waivers have no specific end date, but can be rescinded by the secretary of state.

The State Department had imposed sanctions on four Russian ships, including the Akademik Cherskiy, which began pipe-laying for the project in Danish waters in April. It also imposed the measures on five other Russian entities, including the Russian Marine Rescue Service.

"Today's actions demonstrate the administration’s commitment to energy security in Europe, consistent with the President’s pledge to rebuild relationships with our allies and partners in Europe," Blinken said in a release, issued as he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Iceland for an Arctic Council conference.

President Joe Biden has opposed the $11 billion project that would take Russian gas from the Arctic to Germany, saying it is a bad deal for Europe. The United States is an exporter of natural gas to Europe in the form of LNG, but Russian gas is cheaper. Washington fears Russia could use Nord Stream 2 as leverage to weaken European Union states by increasing dependency on Moscow. Russiia's state energy company, Gazprom, and its Western partners are racing to finish the pipeline to send natural gas under the Baltic Sea. The project, now about 95% complete, would bypass Ukraine, depriving it of lucrative transit fees and potentially undermining its struggle against Russian aggression.

Yuriy Vitrenko, the new CEO of Ukraine's state-owned energy company, Naftogaz, said Nord Stream 2 is Russia's "most malign and dangerous geopolitical project" and that Ukraine would ask Washington to fully apply its laws and impose sanctions to stop the pipeline. US officials hope the waiver will give time for discussions with Germany on potential negative effects of the pipeline and provide some leverage to deepen cooperation on broader issues, such as the pandemic, climate change, the economic recovery and dealing with China and Russia. The waiver also "provides space for diplomatic engagement with Germany to address the risks that a completed pipeline would pose to Ukraine and European energy security," the State Department official told reporters.

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