The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act just approved by the US Senate includes a bill sanctioning companies involved in building the almost-finished Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
The “Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019” embedded in the 3,500 page NDAA was proposed by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), who argued the pipeline would “vastly strengthen President Vladimir Putin at the expense of the rest of the free world.”
Penalizing the companies involved in installing the pipeline will “have protected Europe’s energy security and prevented Putin from leveraging billions of dollars that could be used to fuel Russian aggression,” Cruz argued last week, when it was clear the bill would be included in the compromise version of the bill negotiated with the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives
The final vote was 86 in favor and 8 opposed, with six senators not voting. The massive NDAA allocates almost $740 billion to US “defense” programs, ranging from the construction of the wall on the US-Mexico border to the establishment of US Space Force as a new branch of the military. It now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature.
Cruz and Shaheen’s sanctions target the speciality ships laying the pipeline on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, but it is unlikely they will manage to stop the completion of Nord Stream 2. The pipeline is down to one last stretch near the Danish island of Bornholm. Once finished, it will double the capacity for Russian natural gas deliveries to Germany and allow Moscow to bypass Ukraine and Poland in delivering gas to Europe – if it so wished.
Moscow has already said it would not halt gas transit through Ukraine, however.
Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the proposed US sanctions “unacceptable” and “an attempt to influence sovereign decisions of Europe,” urging the Senate to reject them.
Washington has long sought to stop the pipeline’s completion, originally scheduled for the end of 2019 but pushed back to mid-2020 due to delays in Denmark approving the Bornholm route.
Lawmakers from both parties who believe Russia “invaded” Ukraine are alarmed at the prospect of Kiev losing transit fees from Russian natural gas, while also trying to pressure European countries to buy the far more expensive US product, earnestly dubbed “molecules of freedom” by the Department of Energy.