© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Senate Intelligence Committee holds a hearing on the appointment of William Burns as CIA director on Capitol Hill in Washington
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Ted Cruz announced late Friday President Joe Biden's decision to pressure the Central Intelligence Agency to impose severe sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
The Senate Intelligence Committee this week unanimously backed William Burns, a former ambassador to Russia. Burns was re-elected by the Senate for five previous jobs over 33 years and is expected to be approved by the entire Senate.
The hold is a delaying tactic as the Texas Senator is pressuring the government to sanction ships and companies helping Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom (MCX 🙂 build the $ 11 billion pipeline to bring gas under the Baltic Sea to bring to Europe via Germany.
"I will release my grip when the Biden administrator fulfills his legal obligation to report and sanction the ships and companies that build Putin's pipeline (Russian President Vladimir)," wrote Cruz on Twitter late Friday. The move was first reported by Bloomberg.
After a year of delay due to sanctions, Gazprom is racing to complete the pipeline, which analysts expect by September. A second ship, the Akademik Cherskiy, has joined the construction site off Denmark.
President Joe Biden believes the pipeline is "bad business for Europe," said the White House. The pipeline would bypass Ukraine and deprive Ukraine of lucrative transit fees and could undermine its efforts against Russian aggression. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US lawmakers of both parties opposing the project believe that about 15 ships https://gop-foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Final-2.17.21-NS2-Letter- to-Sec.- Blinken.pdf helps build the pipeline. But the State Department only sanctioned one ship last month in a report to Congress required by Sanctions Act.
Forty Republican senators said in a letter to Biden this week that the sanction against the Fortuna ship will not stop the pipeline, which as of February had left about 120 km from Denmark and 30 km from Germany.
The State Department is due to present another report to Congress on Nord Stream 2 on May 16, which may include further sanctions, although Spokesman Ned Price said sanctions are only "one of many tools" that can be used.
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