The Russian pipe-laying ship Akademik Tscherski is seen at the port of Mukran on the island of Ruegen, Germany. (file photo)
The United States formally blacklisted more than a dozen Russian ships involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, days after exempting the pipeline’s Russian operator and CEO.
The widely expected move, announced late on May 21 by the U.S. Treasury Department, came amid vehement criticism from congressional Republicans about the White House’s earlier announcement that it would not include the pipeline’s Russian-owned operator in the new sanctions.
Nearly complete, the Baltic Sea pipeline will bring Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing land routes through Ukraine, Belarus, and other countries.
Critics said it will increase German dependence on Russian energy supplies and make Berlin more susceptible to Russian politics. It will also deprive Ukraine and other countries of lucrative transit fees.
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However, the pipeline has been backed by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Political observers said President Joe Biden appeared to not want to pick a fight with a U.S. ally over the issue.
The State Department earlier this week announced the intention not to sanction the pipeline’s Russian-owned operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, or its CEO, Matthias Warnig, who is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Republican senators say they will introduce legislation to reinstate the sanctions.
"I don’t understand. Do they not want to make Putin mad? I don’t get that. Do they not want to get Germany mad?" Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on May 20.
With reporting by Reuters