A pair of bills recently introduced by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate center on approving Russia and specifically the country’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, though they differ on when the sanctions will go into effect.
Democratic legislation introduced on Wednesday would impose sanctions on whether Russia invades Ukraine. It was introduced as an opponent of a bill introduced by Republican Senator Ted Cruz that would approve operators of the Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, regardless of whether there was an invasion or not.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement announcing the Democrats’ sanctions, “This law makes it absolutely clear that the US Senate will not stand idle as the Kremlin threatens to invade Ukraine again.” Will happen.” According to the Associated Press law.
Critics of Cruz’s bill say that imposing sanctions regardless of any invasion could damage foreign relations with Germany and other European countries and that sanctions would be removed as a threat to prevent an invasion. .
Cruz’s bill is set for a vote in the Senate this week, although it will require 10 Democratic votes to pass, which are not certain. Even if it passes, it cannot be brought up for vote in the Democratic-controlled House.
The Democrats’ proposal is to demonstrate their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty by giving them White House-backed legislation and increasing US promises of financial pain for Russia, which has staged thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders. The Democratic bill opens the door for more penalties related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 has been manufactured but has not yet been put into operation.
Republicans have portrayed top Democratic opposition to Cruz’s bill as President Joe Biden and other Democrats showing weakness against Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is a sharp political point given the Democratic criticism that President Donald Trump was too respectful of the Russian leader.
Democratic lobbying from the White House and Democratic lawmakers against his bill “works to Putin’s advantage. While Russian tanks prepare to attack,” Cruz tweeted this week.
The Biden administration argues that Cruz’s proposal could damage relations with valuable ally Germany, which, like the rest of Europe, relies on imported natural gas. The passage of Cruz’s law would risk a split in what administration officials say is a united front between the US and its European allies to punish Russia if it does attack. Democrats say the crackdown will strengthen Putin’s hands.
The Democratic measure would target Putin, his civil and military leaders and major Russian financial institutions. It is less aggressive against Nord Stream 2 than Cruz’s bill, saying that the United States should “consider all available and reasonable measures to prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from becoming operational.”
The pipeline will double the amount of gas pumped directly into Germany by Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom. Running under the Baltic Sea, it bypasses existing links through Poland and Ukraine. Gazprom argues that this will make long-term supply more reliable.
Critics of the pipeline say it increases Russia’s leverage over Europe, pits member states against each other and deprives Ukraine and Poland of billions earned from transit fees. Europe went into winter with low gas reserves, which have pushed prices up to eight times as early as 2021. Putin has used that supply crisis to help push his push for eventual German and European approval of the project.
The head of the International Energy Agency on Wednesday blamed Russia for worsening Europe’s natural gas crisis and said high prices and low storage levels stemmed largely from Gazprom’s behavior.
The US and allies have begun working on contingency plans should Russia proceed to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and others, according to a person familiar with the plan, who was not authorized to comment publicly. and spoke on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday. Currently, Asia has higher-than-average inventories. Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and Qatar are other suppliers that can take steps to fill the breach.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he believes Germany will not start operating the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, whose government is eager to cooperate with the West. Germany’s new government has not given a definitive public answer on that point.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horn argued Wednesday that imposing new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 regardless of whether Russia invades, as Cruz’s bill would, removes the advantage that sanctions provide. does.
“We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would trigger serious costs for the Russian economy if Russia further invades Ukraine, as President Biden and our allies and partners have made clear we will,” Horne said. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.