Why are US sanctions important

USA confirms waiver of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 operators

As of: May 20th, 2021 00:30 a.m.

The USA and Germany have been arguing about the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline for years. Now the US government wants at least to forego sanctions against German participants.

The US government officially waives sanctions against the operating company of the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 and its German managing director. In a report sent to the US Congress on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote that waiving the punitive measures would be "in the national interest of the US". However, sanctions are to be imposed on several Russian laying vessels and companies. The report says that Switzerland-based Nord Stream 2 AG and its managing director Matthias Warnig are involved in activities that violate a US sanctions law. The imposition of punitive measures would have "negative effects on the USA's relations with Germany, the European Union and other European allies and partners".

The waiver of sanctions would also create space for diplomatic talks with the German government on "the risks that a completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline would pose for Ukraine and European energy security," the report said. In addition to Warnig, the exception rule includes the entire management of Nord Stream 2. The subsidiary of the Russian energy giant Gazprom, based in the Swiss city of Zug, is responsible for the planning, construction and subsequent operation of the pipeline, which is almost completed.

Cross-party criticism in the US Congress

In the US Congress, which passed a sanctions law against the construction of Nord Stream 2 in 2019, the government's current decision met with bipartisan criticism. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Democrat Bob Menendez, said the Biden government must do everything possible to stop the completion of the pipeline. This also included sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its managing directors. Republican Senator Jim Risch spoke of a "gift" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Maas: "Keep talking to each other as constructively as possible"

US media had already reported on Tuesday that Biden wants to waive sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG. This was welcomed in Berlin: Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said on Wednesday that the Federal Government sees this "as a step that is being taken towards us". It is important to "continue to discuss problems with one another as constructively as possible". The federal government is sticking to the nine billion euro pipeline, although there has also been criticism from other EU countries. Maas said Nord Stream 2 was the only issue on which Germany and the US had "fundamentally different views". One now has to see "that this project does not further burden our really excellent cooperation in any way". The next three months until the next report by the US State Department to Congress on Nord Stream 2 would have to be used to discuss the problematic parts of the project again. The reports are due every 90 days.

Mayor of Sassnitz: "A good day"

The threats of sanctions against the port of Sassnitz should therefore also no longer be applicable. Last summer, US Senators threatened the port as a base for the pipeline construction work with restrictions. The mayor of Sassnitz and port workers also had to expect travel restrictions to the USA.

The mayor of Sassnitz, Frank Kracht (Die Linke), spoke to NDR 1 Radio MV about a "good day". "From my point of view, it is a consistent continuation of the new president in order to improve German-American relations," he said on Wednesday. Kracht described the waiver of sanctions as a "very good sign for the city and our ferry port Sassnitz-Mukran GmbH". The city holds 90 percent of the ferry port operations. The subject of sanctions has often burdened discussions with other companies, said Kracht. "That was very difficult and also a hindrance in some negotiations. Fortunately, however, the threats from the three senators remained and no sanctions were implemented."

For years dispute over the Baltic Sea pipeline

The pipeline has been one of the main points of contention in German-American relations for years. Washington remains strictly against the natural gas pipeline. Like his predecessor Trump, President Biden argues that Germany and Europe would become increasingly dependent on Russia. However, in the dispute over the pipeline, Washington does not want to jeopardize the relations with Germany that have improved again after the Trump years.

Extension building as good as finished

The construction of the natural gas pipeline from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany has largely been completed. In German waters, 13.9 kilometers of one line and 16.8 kilometers of the second line are missing. After completion, Nord Stream 2 is expected to transport 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Russia to Germany. The first two lines between Vyborg in Russia and Lubmin in Western Pomerania were put into operation in 2011.

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NDR 1 Radio MV | The news | 05/19/2021 | 6:00 a.m.