Antony Blinken offers mixed message on Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Biden administration is committed to imposing sanctions with the goal of blocking Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Western Europe, but also seemed to acknowledge on Sunday that the project may be a done deal.

When pressed during an interview with CNN on whether there is anything the U.S. can do to stop the completion of the Russian gas pipeline, Mr. Blinken said that “ultimately, that’s up to those who are trying to build the pipeline and complete it.”

His comments, during an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that was taped Thursday and broadcast Sunday, come amid ongoing pressure from U.S. lawmakers for the Biden administration to clarify why it is not fighting harder to try and block Nord Stream 2.

The half-completed project has long been a source of geopolitical friction between Washington and Moscow, where Russian officials have made headlines recently by vowing to complete the pipeline by the end of 2021 regardless of anything Washington tries to do to stop it.

The issue also has been particularly vexing for Germany, whose own companies are invested in Nord Stream 2 and where domestic political divisions over it are biting.

With that as a backdrop, U.S. lawmakers from both parties have expressed concern that a completed pipeline will hand Russian President Vladimir Putin key strategic leverage over Western Europe by making nations such as Germany more dependent than ever on Russia for their energy needs.

During its final weeks in office, the Trump administration began imposing sanctions on a limited number of Russian firms involved in the project. Lawmakers have since accused the Biden administration of dragging its feet on further sanctions that could slow construction, but would also likely outrage Germany, a close U.S. ally.

In his CNN interview, Mr. Blinken said he had discussed the issue with his German counterparts during recent days and made it clear that “we have a difference with Germany over this.”

“President Biden’s been very clear for a long time that he thinks the pipeline is a bad deal and a bad idea. It undermines European energy security. In fact, it undermines the very principles that the Europeans agreed on about the need to diversify energy sources and supply to make sure they’re not reliant on any one country, especially not Russia,” Mr. Blinken said.

“It is potentially harmful to Ukraine, to Poland, to other countries. It gives Russia more of a weapon, using energy as a tool of coercion. So, we think it’s a bad idea, and it was important for us to be able to tell that directly to our close partners in Germany,” he said. “Congress feels the same way, and we have sanctioned companies, based on the law, that are participating in trying to build the pipeline.”

“We’ve made clear that we’ll continue to do that,” the secretary of state added.

Mr. Blinken also stressed that “Germany is one of our closest allies and partners anywhere in the world,” asserting that “the fact that we have a difference over this pipeline is not going to change that.”

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