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Clock Ticking In Congress As Russia Presses Ahead With Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty ^ | November 18, 2019 17:14 GMT | TODD PRINCE

Posted on 11/19/2019 7:34:15 PM PST by

As the impeachment inquiry hogs the spotlight in Washington, another drama in which Ukraine has a role is playing out more quietly -- and causing concern in Kyiv, which is watching warily as Russia brings its Nord Stream 2 pipeline closer to completion.

Members of the U.S. Congress appear unified on the need to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin's $11 billion project to deliver natural gas to Europe via a new pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea.

Bills that would impose sanctions on companies involved in Nord Stream 2 sailed through committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate last summer with overwhelming backing from both Democrats and Republicans.

Yet as Russia forges ahead with the pipeline's construction, little progress appears to have been made toward passage of Nord Stream 2 sanctions legislation by either chamber of Congress.

That is causing jitters in Kyiv, because completion of the pipeline from the eastern shore of the Baltic in Russia to Germany would enable Russia to reroute gas headed for Europe around Ukraine, eliminating billions of dollars in transit fees for Kyiv. It's also raising alarm among U.S. officials who say it would strengthen, enrich, and embolden Russia.

Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), who is among the more outspoken critics of Nord Stream 2, has said it will bolster Moscow's clout over the energy industry in Europe and put cash in the Kremlin's coffers, increasing the risk of military adventurism on Russia's part five years after it occupied Crimea and helped separatists seize part of eastern Ukraine.

More than 13,000 people have been killed and cash-strapped Ukraine continues to battle the Russia-backed separatists in the region known as the Donbas, which Senator Ron Johnson (Republican-Wisconsin) has called "ground zero" in the standoff between the Kremlin and Washington.

Some U.S. lawmakers and Ukrainian officials are worried that Congress, with much of its attention focused on impeachment inquiry, will not come to an agreement on sanctions legislation before the completion of the pipeline project, which is expected early in 2020.

"Time is running out to stop Nord Stream 2," Cruz said in a statement to RFE/RL in October. "In a few short months, Russia will have completed its natural gas pipeline – putting President [Vladimir] Putin in a position to further expand his military, exploit our European allies, and threaten U.S. energy security."

Doubling Germany's Imports

In the future, Nord Stream 2 could potentially double the amount of Russian gas imported by Germany, the European Union's largest economy.

The 1,230-kilometer-long pipeline -- which is owned by Nord Stream 2 AG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Russia's Gapzrom -- is more than 80 percent completed. In October, after substantial deliberation, Denmark granted the company permission to lay part of the pipeline through its waters -- the last remaining regulatory hurdle to its completion.

In July, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed a bill co-sponsored by Cruz and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat-New Hampshire) to impose sanctions on vessels that help lay the pipeline.

Only a few companies in the world possess the technology to lay deep-sea pipelines and none of them is Russian, giving the bill its power to stop the project, Cruz said in September.

The committee's vote to approve the bill was 20-2, underscoring the overwhelming and bipartisan support for sanctions against the project in the Senate. The House Foreign Affairs Committee had passed a companion bill in June.

But they have yet to come to a floor vote in either chamber.

WATCH: Poland Says Russian Pipeline A 'Huge Threat' Embed share Poland Says Russian Pipeline A 'Huge Threat' Embed share

VIDEO [Poland Says Russian Pipeline A 'Huge Threat']

Members of Ukraine's parliament have sent several letters to top congressional leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the leading Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee in the Republican-led Senate.

When asked at the end of October where he stood on the Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill, Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, told RFE/RL his party wanted legislation that imposes more penalties on the Kremlin. "Democrats are pushing for the toughest Russia sanctions bill possible that also addresses continued efforts by Putin and other foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections and Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea," he said.

Schumer did not state what additional measures he wanted, but several bills floating around Congress include measures to impose sanctions on more people considered close to Putin as well as Russian banks and Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

"I am extremely afraid of this option of a wider sanctions bill," Oleksandr Kharchenko, a Kyiv-based energy consultant to the Ukrainian government who traveled to Washington last month to lobby for the bill, told RFE/RL. "We need the sanctions bill today, not in a few months, after it is completed."

Meanwhile, Russia has been lobbying lawmakers to stop new sanctions, including those aimed at the pipeline. Nord Stream 2 AG contends that the pipeline is needed to offset declining European natural-gas production.

However, Kharchenko said Ukraine's gas-transportation system had more free capacity than the entire Nord Stream 2 project.

Impeachment Inquiry

Any bill that passes Congress would need Trump's signature to become law.

The Republican president said in June that he would consider imposing sanctions targeting Nord Stream 2, adding that Germany should instead buy U.S. LNG.

Trump has shown reluctance in the past to impose additional sanctions on Russia, but the effort to put broader measures in place along with those targeting Nord Stream 2 comes at a tricky time for the president in terms of policy involving Ukraine and Russia, and he may feel pressure to show support for Kyiv.

Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, are leading an impeachment inquiry that focuses on whether Trump withheld military assistance to Ukraine in order to pressure the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to conduct investigations potentially targeting U.S. Democrats and in particular former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner for the party's nomination to challenge Trump for the presidency in November 2020.

In August, outgoing Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy in August addressed a letter to Pelosi asking her to bring the Nord Stream 2 bill to the floor.

"The parliament of Ukraine, representing the people of Ukraine, respectfully ask you to prioritize this legislation and allow the full House to vote," the letter stated.

Representative Marcy Kaptur (Democrat-Ohio), co-chair of the House's Ukraine Caucus, told RFE/RL that she would like to see broader sanctions against Russia, but said that it is "vital that Congress act quickly to prevent the imminent completion of the pipeline."

Two people familiar with the discussions said that if Congress did not expect to agree on new legislation imposing broader sanctions on Russia by the end of the year, it could include the Nord Stream 2 bill into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The two people asked not to be named as they said it could hurt their relations with lawmakers.

While the NDAA specifies the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Defense Department, legislators often attach nondefense bills to it because it is almost certain to be passed before the end of the year.

John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who heads the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, said it would be a "shame" if delays related to negotiations on a larger sanctions bill result in Nord Stream 2 being completed.

TOPICS: Front Page News; Germany; Government; News/Current Events; Russia; US: Texas; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: alexandervindman; burisma; energy; erdogan; ericciaramella; europe; europeanunion; gapzrom; hydrocarbons; jeanneshaheen; kurdistan; maga; marcykaptu; nato; newhampshire; nordstream2; nordstream2ag; ohio; opec; pipeline; putinsbuttboys; receptayyiperdogan; ronjohnson; russia; tedcruz; texas; turkey; ukraine; wisconsin
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1 posted on 11/19/2019 7:34:15 PM PST by
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2 posted on 11/19/2019 7:36:17 PM PST by Sacajaweau
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This is one of the tangible reasons Ukraine was a hot issue in the 2016 election.

3 posted on 11/19/2019 7:38:09 PM PST by Fedora
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“Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), who is among the more outspoken critics of Nord Stream 2”

Lyin’ Ted just can’t shake his Neocon roots.

And It’s EUROPE that wants this pipeline most of all.

There’s no reasonable way to stop it, and its construction is in the best strategic interests of Europe.

4 posted on 11/19/2019 7:40:37 PM PST by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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Drill here, drill now, drill there, pipe it everywhere, the more energy sloshing around the globe the better...and the cheaper.

Ironic though that Europe won’t frack but will allow this.

5 posted on 11/19/2019 7:45:26 PM PST by FreedomNotSafety
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Sanctions? What gives us the right to stop the pipeline?

If Germany wants Russian gas, that’s their business.

OTOH, let’s pull our troops out of Germany and let the Krauts fend for themselves.

6 posted on 11/19/2019 7:46:15 PM PST by Jeff Chandler (BLACK LIVES MAGA)
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Can someone please explain how this pipeline threatens the US? Or is Cruz shilling for higher natural gas prices?

“Time is running out to stop Nord Stream 2,” Cruz said in a statement to RFE/RL in October. “In a few short months, Russia will have completed its natural gas pipeline – putting President [Vladimir] Putin in a position to further expand his military, exploit our European allies, and threaten U.S. energy security.”

Would any company not government sponsored want to own and operate a Ukrainian pipeline?

7 posted on 11/19/2019 7:49:07 PM PST by FreedomNotSafety
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I’ve watched this with interest. I don’t know that we can do much at all to stop it. Europe is totally dependent on Russian natgas. With Germany set to shut down all of its nuclear energy, and now shutting down its wind farms, they will need that much more from Russia.

In addition to this, Israel has the Leviathan project in conjunction with Cyprus. They will be running natgas from offshore Israel into Greece and Italy via Cyprus. This puts some perspective on why Russia is so keen to have a massive military presence in Syria and use of its warm water ports. It is also partly why Turkey has turned hostile. They wanted the pipeline to run through their territory. But also because Turkey, a NATO member, sees itself as a player in the Muslim world more than in Europe - and Europe refused to admit Turkey into any EU political or economic projects. So Turkey also feels pushed away.

It seems to me that while Russia is still a bit of an adversary, all in the west would be better off trying to make them an ally. They are basically European people. NATO has them in check big time. We should be trying to bring Russia closer, not push them into the arms of China. But, Russia still has imperialistic ambitions held over from the USSR days. Working to close that gap, accept them as a competitor and deal them into some of the major international projects on a cooperative basis would, IMO, in the long run work out better than the current situation. But you can thank the Democrats and all the deep state holdovers. They have boxed Trump in from thawing relations in any way.

8 posted on 11/19/2019 7:49:25 PM PST by monkeyshine (live and let live is dead)
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To:; FreedomNotSafety

The original poster does not answer direct challenges to their propaganda.

9 posted on 11/19/2019 7:53:29 PM PST by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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Gee how about sanctioning Germany for buying Russian gas...

10 posted on 11/19/2019 7:53:55 PM PST by silverleaf (Age Takes a Toll: Please Have Exact Change)
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Seems like Ukraine picked the WRONG SIDE for our 2016 election. So, tough crap, Russia is sick of them stealing their gas.

11 posted on 11/19/2019 7:56:35 PM PST by BobL (I drive a pickup truck to work because it makes me feel like a man.)
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This is none of our business. We should stay out of it entirely.


12 posted on 11/19/2019 7:56:54 PM PST by Lurker (Peaceful coexistence with the Left is not possible. Stop pretending that it is.)
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Why does Germany want to import gas? It’s my impression that Germany considers fossil fuels to be evil, that they contribute to global climate change and that Germany wants to transition to renewable energy.

13 posted on 11/19/2019 8:06:45 PM PST by AlaskaErik
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I'm confused. Please explain:

(1) Why does Russia NOT have the right to build a pipeline under the Baltic Sea -- far from Ukraine? And why must Congress pass 'sanctions' over it?

(2) What the heck does any of this have to do with the United States? We have our own massive gas reserves. If Europe does not, and needs to import it, isn't that EUROPE'S problem?

14 posted on 11/19/2019 8:09:19 PM PST by montag813
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To: Jeff Chandler

I have no idea how the question of the legitimate commerce relates to the presence of US troops in Germany.
That’s apples and oranges.
But US government otsructing legit commerce curbing Germany’s economy big time is an act provoking understandable anti-American sentiments there.
It is not Cruz’s business what Germans buy and from whom. Not American business.
As for US troops in Germany it is not something the Germans asked for and proud of. It is an occupying force in the first place which stayed there after WWII.
It is an exclusive matter of American consideration but the Germans certainly won’t miss the IS forces.

Another important moment is that just recently German Bundestag voted to overrule all limitations put by the EU on Nord Stream II. It is a project between Russia and Germany. It is none of Washington’s or Brussel’s business at all.
If Cruz and unelected EU bureaucrats believe the deal is bad for Ukraine obstructing its extortion racket over Russian gas transit to Europe why won’t they cry a river?

They say Russian influence is bad for Ukraine and there is European choice. Tell me at least one reason why the Russian energy companies need this? If Ukraine want Western choice they need to pay for themselves and let Cruz and his EU pals open their wallets.
There is no legit way to force Russia and Germany use Ukraine as an intermediary.
No legit way.

Although I understand it hurts DC kids on boards of Ukrainian energy companies. Too bad.
The whole Ukrainian-Russian situation resemble the relations between an aging trophy wife with a generous husband who has fallen on hard times. She is throwing tantrums and trying to screw around but nobody wants her beyond one-night stand and she extorts the husband to support her while continuing her amoral behavior.

15 posted on 11/19/2019 8:14:51 PM PST by NorseViking
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To: montag813

Wow. All legit questions and of course everybody with half a brain know the right answers.

16 posted on 11/19/2019 8:19:41 PM PST by NorseViking
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The Europeans have no live with Russia. We don’t.

Germans are grateful to Russia for consenting to reunification of their country.

Any US sanctions are DOA. The US has no authority to order the EU to enforce US laws.

Then again, America is not a potential Russian gas customer but a commercial rival.

And this measure is aimed at protecting US commercial interests.

17 posted on 11/19/2019 8:26:01 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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There must be a lot of politicians that are worried that they won’t get any kickbacks from the Ukraine anymore once the billions in gas transit fees dry up.

18 posted on 11/19/2019 8:30:37 PM PST by Karl Spooner
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To: goldstategop

I have no objection against legit economic rivalry but US gas producers need to compete using legit methods. Right now they don’t have capacity to supply US with natural gas much less Europe. And everything they have to offer is at least 50% more expensive and the offer is miniscule.
They build LNG infrastructure in Europe and US but don’t have the gas to sell in reasonable volume and for reasonable price. It is in fact Russian companies who are using this infrastructure now to deliver LNG both to US and Europe on top of pipeline deliveries.
That’s some nice monkey business there.

19 posted on 11/19/2019 8:36:37 PM PST by NorseViking
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If there is bipartisan support on stopping the Nord pipeline, why doesn’t the House take a break from the impeachment circus and send a bill to the Senate that would stop the pipeline?

While they are at it, the House should move the Mexico/Canada trade bill as that too is good for our USA.

20 posted on 11/19/2019 8:44:36 PM PST by RicocheT (Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.)
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