WASHINGTON – President Biden said on Wednesday he would enact economic sanctions on the company behind a new natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, the latest in a series of sanctions. sanctions that the White House has promised will continue if Russia escalates hostilities with Ukraine.
Biden’s move comes as administration officials warn that a full-scale military strike could be imminent. But it is also a reversal for the president after he waived sanctions on the pipeline, known as Nord Stream 2, last year despite calls from both Democrats and Republicans. peace to stop the energy project.
“These steps are another part of our initial round of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take the next steps if Russia continues to escalate.”
Administration officials said Biden decided he needed to go ahead with the penalties after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Tuesday that he would suspend pipeline certification in response to Moscow ordering the military Russia crossed the border into the separatist regions in the east. Ukraine, which the Kremlin has recognized as an independent state.
The new sanctions target a subsidiary of Gazprom, a Russian company controlled by the Kremlin, and they are part of a united effort by NATO allies to prevent what Mr. Biden has described. was “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. . ”
On Wednesday, the European Union also announced new sanctions against the Russian Defense Minister, President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff and prominent Russians in the media world. On Tuesday, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on two Russian banks and some of the country’s elites, and cut off Russia’s ability to raise capital in Western markets. The administration has said it maintains the possibility of even greater sanctions if Mr. Putin escalates the conflict by trying to capture more territory in Ukraine – or even the entire country.
The White House did not issue sanctions against the company behind the previous gas pipeline because it was unclear whether those measures would halt the project, which was 90% completed when Biden took office. or not, according to Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department.
But on Tuesday, Mr. Scholz gave Mr. Biden loopholes when he paused project certification.
“So by acting with the Germans,” Mr. Price said, “we have ensured that this is an $11 billion prize investment that is now just a pile of steel lying on the seabed. “.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, described the action against the pipeline as part of an effort to prevent an armed conflict.
“What we’re trying to do is stop the war, stop the devastation on the Ukrainian people,” Ms. Psaki said. Referring to Mr. Putin, she said, “We will continue to make it clear that if he continues to escalate, so will we.”
But there is little indication that this week’s initial sanctions have prevented Mr. Putin from moving forward in Ukraine.
The Pentagon issued a stark assessment on Wednesday, saying that 80 percent of the 190,000 Russian troops and separatists in or near Ukraine are now in combat-ready positions.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has caused years of tension between Germany and the US. Germany has long been hesitant to jeopardize its energy trade with Russia; Mr. Scholz last month dodged questions about whether he agreed with Mr. Biden’s assertion that the project would be halted if Russia invaded Ukraine.
Still, Mr Biden’s move was welcomed by Democrats and Republicans, who for a year have called for him to quickly sanction Russia and halt the pipeline.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, on Wednesday dropped objections to 17 Biden’s nominees, many of them for State Department positions, now the president has announced. announced sanctions against the company behind the pipeline.
Cruz used Senate procedure to slow the speed at which the chamber could approve Biden’s nominations, asking the administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2.
“Allowing Putin’s Nord Stream 2 online will create multiple acute and multi-layered security crises for the United States and our European allies for generations to come,” Cruz said.
Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said the initial sanctions announced by the administration this week were “an important first step,” but he said they “haven’t gone far enough.” .
“To create an effective deterrent, tougher sanctions must be extended to other financial institutions and export controls must be in place,” Mr. Portman said.
Mr. Biden has previously said the pipeline is too advanced to stop. “Nord Stream was 99% complete last year,” he said. “The idea that anything will be said or done that will stop it is impossible.” Construction of the pipeline was completed last year but the project approval process has stalled.
Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser, said on Tuesday that shutting down the project would sacrifice “what would have been a cash cow for Russia’s coffers”.
“It’s not just about money,” Mr Singh said. “This decision will remove Russia’s geostrategic barrier to Europe through the supply of gas, and it is a major turning point in the world’s energy independence from Russia.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, spoke with Europe’s top diplomats to coordinate economic sanctions against Russia, the State Department said. said.
Mr. Price reiterated that the United States is still seeking a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, in which Russia has recognized the independence of two lands that are part of Ukraine and sent more Russian troops into the areas. this. Putin has concentrated troops on three sides of Ukraine, and American officials say a full-scale invasion could happen at any moment.
Catie Edmondson contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/us/politics/biden-russia-sanctions-nord-stream-2.html New US sanctions target the Russian company behind Nord Stream 2