Bill on Nord Stream 2 sanctions filed to US Congress

Bill on Nord Stream 2 sanctions filed to US Congress
Pipe transshipment in the German port of Mukran / Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt
By bne IntelliNews July 19, 2018

The bill that mandates sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany was introduced to the US Congress by the senator John Barrasso on June 18.

The summit between the US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki brought no clarity on the US position on Nord Stream 2 that competes with US supplies of LNG to Europe and is seen as an energy security threat by some EU members.

Moreover, some analysts suggested that domestic bi-partisan outrage over Trump siding with Putin on election meddling and other critical issues in Helsinki could backfire with more sanctions and tougher stance on Russia in Washington.

Similarly, Trump's contradictory position on Russia led the Congress in summer 2017 to pass the sanctions bill that makes the president unable to lift sanctions without Congress’ approval. In compliance with the bill the infamous Kremlin Report of Russia's richest was later published by the Treasury, which in April directly sanctioned Kremlin insiders Oleg Deripaska and Victor Vekselberg and their businesses.

The summer 2017 sanction package already included the options of sanctioning pipelines. But in relief for Russian gas giant Gazprom in November the US Department of State said that the "focus of implementation" of the sanctions will not apply retroactively to export pipelines initiated before August 2017, reportedly under intense lobbying from the EU.

Reuters reported at the end of June 2018 that US authorities pledged to Germany, which along with Austria backs Nord Stream 2, that no contractors involved in the pipeline would be sanctioned. 

This followed a report from the Wall Street Journal in May that claimed Trump had tried to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to give up her support for the pipeline. Most recently the US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that the US was still considering imposing sanctions against the project, while calling the sanction option the "last place" they would like to land.

Earlier in June two members of the US Congress asked the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to consider including Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenko and his multi-industry investment conglomerate AFK Sistema in the sanctions list.

Reportedly, the shade is thrown on Yevtushenko for participating in large-scale investment and construction projects in the annexed Crimea peninsula. The billionaire was already included in the so-called Kremlin Report, along with Deripaska and Vekselberg.