(CNSNews.com) – With mounting criticism over reports that the U.S. has struck a deal with Germany to allow the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to go ahead, the State Department on Tuesday continued to maintain that its approach to the issue was better than that of the Trump administration.
But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed President Biden over the reported agreement, saying if true, “this will be a generational geopolitical win for [President Vladimir] Putin and a catastrophe for the United States and our allies.”
“President Biden is defying U.S. law and has utterly surrendered to Putin,” said Cruz, one of two Republicans who authored sanctions legislation in 2019 that prompted a suspension of work on the pipeline through most of last year. (It only resumed after the 2020 election.)
“Decades from now, Russian dictators will still be reaping billions from Biden’s gift, and Europe will still be subject to Russian energy blackmail,” he said. “We always knew Biden was in bed with Putin, now they’re spooning.”
In May the Biden administration chose to waive sanctions against the project’s central figures, arguing that the pipeline had been too close to completion by the time it took office for sanctions to have made any difference.
The administration also maintained that sanctioning those targets – Nord Stream 2 AG, a consortium led by the Russian state-owned Gazprom and its corporate officers, including its German CEO, Putin crony Matthias Warnig – would have upset ties with an important ally, Germany.
The $11-billion project, a 760-mile pipeline under the Baltic Sea, aims to double the amount of natural gas flowing from Russia to Germany.
Bipartisan critics in Congress worry it will significantly increase western Europe’s dependence on Moscow for energy, and make Ukraine even more exposed to the Kremlin’s pressure than it is already. Ukraine earns billions of dollars in crucial transit fees on Russian gas now piped through its territory en route to Europe.
The Biden administration has not disputed that. State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated Tuesday that it sees the pipeline “as a Kremlin geopolitical project that is intended to expand Russia’s influence over Europe’s energy resources and to circumvent Ukraine.”
But it continues to defend its handling of what it characterizes as a problem inherited from its predecessor.
Price even argued that the administration’s decision to waive the sanctions – a move criticized by congressional Republicans and Democrats – had had a positive impact.
“The waivers that were issued were in fact instrumental in bringing Germany to the table to discuss how together we might be able to address the risk Nord Stream 2 poses to Ukraine and to broader European energy security,” he said.
He noted that Biden in his joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Thursday had said the two nations were “united in conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors.”
Price said the Germans had “put forward useful proposals and we have been able to make progress on steps to achieve that shared goal.”
“We don’t have any final details to announce yet.”
Derek Chollet, a State Department adviser, is this week visiting Ukraine and Poland, the two European countries most bitterly opposed to Nord Stream 2. Price said he would discussing with those two governments a range of issues including “Nord Stream 2 and energy security more broadly.”
It’s unclear what the U.S. and Germany have agreed, but Reuters said that according to sources familiar with the matter, “the deal would include commitments by both sides to ensure increased investment in Ukraine’s energy sector to offset any negative fallout from the new pipeline.”
Responding to the reports, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Biden and Merkel fail to understand that “the Putin regime will use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a weapon of coercion against Ukraine and transatlantic energy security as soon as it is operational.”
“Promises to invest in future Ukrainian energy projects and ambiguous threats of consequences won’t change that reality,” he said.
“Time and again we have seen this administration’s approach to Russia sound tough, but in reality be incredibly weak.”