Biden administration holds Nord Stream 2 Senate briefing after sanctions waivers rejected

Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration agreed to inform U.S. Senate committee staff on Monday of its decision to waive certain sanctions related to Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, after some lawmakers – some of Biden’s Democratic colleagues as well as Republicans – have questioned the decision.

“They will be here before the (Senate foreign relations) committee,” Sen. Jim Risch, senior Republican on the panel, told reporters on Thursday, who also said he expected the Secretary of State Antony Blinken be asked about the decision when he appears at a hearing Tuesday.

A State Department report sent to Congress on Wednesday concluded that Nord Stream 2 AG – the company behind the Russian gas pipeline to Germany – and its CEO Matthias Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were engaged in activities punishable. But Blinken immediately waived those sanctions, saying it was in the national interest of the United States. Read more

“I don’t understand. Don’t they want to drive Putin crazy? I don’t understand. Don’t they want to drive Germany crazy?” Risch said in a meeting with reporters. He said he discussed the matter with Blinken and others, but had no details.

A Risch aide said the committee requested a staff-level briefing after the Nord Stream decision was announced and the administration agreed. He said it would take place on Monday, but they did not yet have details on who would speak.

Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat and chairman of the foreign relations panel, also opposed the decision to drop sanctions, which had been imposed on the pipeline project, fearing to strengthen Putin’s economic influence in Europe. Menendez said Wednesday after the announcement that he expected to hear “very soon” about the administration’s plans to move forward.

Sen. Kevin Cramer and a dozen of his fellow Republican senators said they would introduce a bill on Thursday to restore sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its executives.

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