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Late on Tuesday night, on the sidelines of a summit at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, the new US Secretary Antony Blinken finally had a chance to meet his German counterpart Heiko Maas face-to-face.
As reported by “Die Welt”, Mr. Blinken used the opportunity to sharply criticize Nord Stream 2- the natural gas pipeline stretching from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea. Blinken implied that by supporting the Nord Stream 2 project, Germany is playing into Russia's efforts to undermine Europe’s collective security- wrote the daily, without citing any sources, however.
In its official communique following the meeting, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not mention Nord Stream 2 as one of the topics discussed between the two top diplomats. It only stated that there was a "very good exchange of views" on issues including Afghanistan and Ukraine.
At the same time, during a press briefing in Brussels, a senior State Department official said that while meeting with the German Minister, Mr. Blinken reiterated his earlier statement about Nord Stream 2 being a bad deal for the U.S., which the country always opposed and still does. The statement also recalled that the U.S. Congress passed legislation that includes sanctions on companies helping the Russian Gazprom complete the Baltic pipeline.
Pressure from the US Congress
Commenting on the US State Secretary’s statement, the German daily "Die Welt" pointed out that it indicates the Biden administration’s plan to follow a tougher line on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Shortly after President Biden has been sworn into office, media broke the news about possible backchannel talks between Berlin and Washington concerning the possibility of the US pulling back from the Nord Stream 2 sanctions. At the same time, while in February Russia resumed its works on the gas pipeline after being pressured by previous US sanctions in 2019, the Biden administration has so far failed to impose new sanctions passed by the US Congress late last year.
Prior to Mr. Blinken's meeting with the German Minister, two influential US senators from the Democratic party published their letter to the US Secretary of State in which they urge him to impose new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 as soon as possible. The letter was signed by Bob Menendez, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen, who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on Europe.
The Senators urged Mr. Blinken to accelerate implementing the sanctions packages against Nord Stream 2 already passed by the US Congress. “This pipeline must be stopped and your leadership is required to prevent its completion” – they wrote.
“From its inception, construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been a clear geopolitical goal for Russia to exert long term influence over Europe’s energy fortunes” – Menendez and Shaheen point out, adding that the sanctions passed by the US Congress are not only a political tool the US can use to exert pressure on Russia, but their implementation is also necessitated by the law.
„As you know, Nord Stream 2 will be fully constructed this year if construction continues unimpeded. We urge you to use all the tools available to stop the pipeline’s construction” – the top Senators write in their letter.
The effort to stop Russia from building the gas pipeline is a bi-partisan issue in the US. Earlier, 40 Senators from the oppositional Republican party have also sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to speed up the process of implementing Nord Stream 2 sanctions. Republican Members of Congress have also urged the President to do the same.
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