The briefing between the State Department and Congress staff on Vladimir Putin’s Russia-German gas pipeline became tense this week, and Biden officials asked why they were not quicker and more active. Challenged by adopting sanctions to prevent its completion.
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Why is it important: As we reported earlier this week, some allies are concerned that Biden is faltering on Putin’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and this fight is about whether the new president’s tough remarks against Russia will match the actions. An important test.
Opponents in Russia, including senior officials in the Ukrainian and Polish governments, worry that Biden does not want to confront Angela Merkel and will not cause a heavy price to the Germans.
The Biden State Department of State has recently overwhelmed members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats) in a report submitted to Congress that only imposed sanctions on one Russian ship. The Trump administration has approved the “God of Wealth”
Behind-the-scenes: The first call between senior State Department officials and Republican and Democratic national security personnel in the House and Senate took place on Tuesday.
Calls on Tuesday were classified and conducted in a safe room. A source on the phone and two other sources who briefed the news said that the focus of the question is why the Biden administration has not targeted a large number of ships as sanctions—the aides believe that given the maritime tracking clearly shows a lot Other ships are working on the pipeline.
The call lasted for about half an hour, until the telephone line suddenly fell from the end of the State Department. Although some Republicans who participated in the conference call initially thought they had hung up the phone, the State Department said it was a technical issue.
Then, at 2 pm on Thursday, Officials of the State Department conducted a second briefing call with senior staff in the Office of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This time it was unclassified.
According to three sources who attended the meeting, the call is more controversial. More and more hostility comes from Republican officials who are not satisfied with the response. Biden officials seem to be trying to politely avoid conflict.
At some point during the conference call, a Republican Senate worker asked Biden officials why they did not approve Nord Stream 2 AG, the company responsible for pipeline construction.
“We are talking about the company that owns Nord Stream 2.” According to the three sources on the phone, Republican officials said sternly. “I am now on their web page and they identify themselves as the company responsible for the planning, construction and operation of the pipeline.”
The official continued: “You have determined that sanctionable activities related to the pipeline are taking place.” “What kind of information do you need to obtain to confirm whether the company you are operating is engaged in sanctionable activities?”
State Department officials disputed The overall atmosphere of the call was hostile and argued that they later listened to the voices of congressional staff, who thought the briefing was useful.
During the call, Molly Montgomery (Molly Montgomery) The Assistant to the Deputy Director of the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau denied that the United States is negotiating with Germany on a potential agreement to allow the pipeline to continue.
Reuters reported on Friday, citing a spokesperson for the German government, that “the US government and Germany have exchanged the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that transports Russian natural gas to Europe”. The report did not provide any further details.
State Department officials argued that the term “exchange” should not be interpreted as a negotiation, and that the Biden administration has expressed concerns about the oil pipeline with the Germans in the course of normal diplomatic dialogue.
Senior aide to the senate He also defended the Biden administration’s immunity from charges of slow and moderate action, saying that the two parties opposed the pipeline, but the Bush administration “needs to ensure that any sanctions meet the evidentiary standards that can stand in court.”
The assistant said: “It was a short time and they were shot dead, but I think they are trying to avoid the clown car approach adopted by the previous government. This practice imposed sanctions on the Russian company Rusal, but they had to be removed afterwards. Back. They almost destroyed the world aluminum market.”
The assistant added: “It’s usually the right policy to measure twice to reduce once, especially when there is a sense of urgency to achieve this goal.”
Yes, but: After the blacklisted oligarch and Putin friend Oleg Deripaska followed his promise to divest his majority stake in the company, the Trump administration removed Rusal from its sanctions list.
Republican Congressional Staff Biden officials were asked to promise to update the reports they had submitted to Congress on new entities that should be sanctioned, but State Department officials did not promise to do so.
An official in Biden told congressional staff that if they knew more about the entities involved in the pipeline, they should say what it was. Earlier this month, bipartisan members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, naming these suspicious ships.
In the recently passed national defense bill, Congress required the government to approve various activities related to the pipeline.
Big picture: After Congress authorized sanctions in the 2019 bill, pipeline construction was stopped during the Trump administration, and senior Trump officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also issued radical threats.
Bottom line: The pipeline is more than 90% complete and can be completed in the summer without major intervention to stop.
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