United States waives sanctions on Russian gas pipeline project to Germany

The Biden administration waived sanctions on the company building a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

United States also lifted sanctions on an executive who leads the firm behind the Nord Stream 2 project.

The move came in a report on Russian sanctions delivered to Congress by the Department of State.

The pipeline project has been controversial. Critics say the pipeline is a major geopolitical prize for the Kremlin. The pipes that would take gas from the Russian Arctic under the Baltic Sea to Germany, is already more than 95% complete.

The Department of State report noted that Nord Stream 2 AG and its chief executive, Matthias Warnig, a former East German intelligence officer, engaged in sanction-able activity.

But it concludes that it is in the US national interest to waive the sanctions.

The Department of State also imposed sanctions on four Russian ships involved in the building of Nord Stream 2, though detractors said that would not be enough to stop the pipeline.

President Joe Biden has said he opposes the $11 billion project. His Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during his confirmation hearing that he was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent that completion” of Nord Stream 2.

German officials also welcomed the sanctions waiver as “a constructive step” from the Biden administration.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters: “It’s an expression of the fact that Germany is an important partner for the US, one that it can count on in the future.”

But Yuriy Vitrenko, the chief executive of Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, Naftogaz, said Kyiv would press Washington to impose sanctions to stop the pipeline.

Mr Vitrenko said Nord Stream was Russia’s most “dangerous geopolitical project”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports of the impending US sanctions waiver were “a positive signal”.