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US Congress backs Russia sanctions which could slow Nord Stream II

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 26.07.2017 10:06
The lower house of the US Congress on Tuesday backed new sanctions against Russia which could hit the planned Nord Stream II pipeline that has been vocally opposed by Warsaw.
Capitol Hill, home of US Congress. Photo: Architect of the Capitol aoc.gov/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)Capitol Hill, home of US Congress. Photo: Architect of the Capitol aoc.gov/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

The house voted 419 for and three against new sanctions targeting Moscow over its role in the conflict in Ukraine. They could hit crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

The move by Congress, which needs to be approved by the US Senate and President Donald Trump, also allows for sanctions against companies involved in energy projects.

This could include Nord Stream II, a pipeline connecting Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea, circumventing Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States.

It would double Russia’s capacity of 55 billion cubic metres of gas currently being sent through the existing Nord Stream pipeline.

The new pipeline could allow Russia to stop sending gas to the EU through Ukraine, undermine energy security in Central and Eastern Europe and increase the EU’s dependence on Russia for gas.

Some US media reports suggest the vote was retribution for Moscow's alleged meddling in 2016 US presidential elections and Donald Trump’s friendliness with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while others said it was a nod to Trump’s “America first” pledges.

Ahead of the vote in Congress on Tuesday, the EU lobbied Washington against the bill.

Major European companies could be affected by the sanctions, including Germany’s Wintershall and Uniper, Austria’s OMV and British-Dutch Shell, which all have shares in Nord Stream II.

It could also hit Germany’s E.ON, France's Engie and the Netherland's Gasunie, and others tied to Nord Stream.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the sanctions, and the European Union’s response to them, would be discussed in Brussels on Wednesday.

When sanctions were first imposed in 2014 under the Obama administration, it was done in close coordination with the EU.

Washington and Brussels continued synchronised Russian policy in response to the Ukraine conflict until Donald Trump took over the White House earlier this year.

Earlier this month Trump held talks in Warsaw, with energy high on the agenda.

He vowed to support Poland and its regional partners in decreasing gas dependence on Russia.

The sanctions, which also affect North Korea and Iran, need to be passed by the US Senate before they land on Trump’s desk for approval.

(vb/pk)

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