U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Washington is working with Germany to try to mitigate any adverse effects of the completion of the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline.
Blinken also indicated that more penalties could be forthcoming on those involved with the project, telling the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 8 that the United States has opportunities “to deal with those who provide insurance or other permits for the pipeline to become operational.”
In addition, the waivers granted to the company overseeing the pipeline and its CEO “can be rescinded at any time,” Blinken said.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea will bring Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing land routes through Ukraine, Belarus, and other countries. It will also deprive Ukraine and other countries of billions of dollars in transit fees.
Critics said it will increase German dependence on Russian energy supplies and make Berlin more susceptible to Russian influence.
The State Department last month announced it would not sanction the pipeline’s Russian-owned operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, or its CEO, Matthias Warnig, who is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Blinken said the main question for the State Department now is what would be most effective to support the interests of Ukraine and other affected countries.
He said the worst possible thing in his judgment would be to “poison the well” with Germany through sanctions and to remove any incentives for Germany to work with the United States to try to mitigate any damage done by the pipeline going into operation.
Blinken told the committee that working with Germany, which has refused to halt the project, arguing that it is a commercial venture and a sovereign issue, was a productive approach.
“We want to make sure that Europeans take the necessary steps to protect, to mitigate, to deal with any of the adverse consequences of gas going through this pipeline,” he said.
The United States is also working with Germany to make sure that “we are making Ukraine whole” for the loss of transit fees and to make sure “Russia cannot use gas as a coercive tool when it comes to Ukraine or anyone else.”
He said the Biden administration continues to believe that the pipeline is “a bad idea” but has to deal with the reality that the pipeline is now about 95 percent complete.
He also noted that last month the administration sanctioned 13 Russian ships and four companies involved in the construction of the pipeline and said there is a difference between “the physical completion of the pipeline and it becoming operational.”