WASHINGTON — Members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus are concerned a U.S. bill to expand sanctions on a Russian natural-gas pipeline to Europe could be dropped from the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The bill, known as the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act (PEESCA), would widen the scope of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany to include any individual or entity providing insurance or welding services for the project.
PEESCA has been included in the NDAA defense spending bill passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year with slight variations. The Senate bill would also sanction any company that provides testing or inspection services for the pipeline. Congress is currently reconciling differences between the Senate and House versions of the NDAA and could be finalized in the coming days.
Members of the Ukraine Caucus have written to congressional leaders to urge them to “include language” in the final version of the NDAA that clarifies the new sanctions, indicating they are concerned PEESCA could be taken out or watered down despite bipartisan support for the bill, according to a letter obtained by RFE/RL.
“We strongly urge you to include PEESCA in the final conferenced FY21 NDAA bill. This will not only strengthen European energy security and U.S. national security, but also demonstrate the U.S. resolute commitment to Ukraine’s democratic future, free from malign Russian influence,” their October 27 letter said.
The letter was signed by the Ukraine Caucus’s four co-chairs: Marcy Kaptur (Democrat-Ohio), Mike Quigley (Democrat-Illinois), Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican-Pennsylvania), and Andy Harris (Republican-Maryland).
Sanctions against Nord Stream 2 have been a source of friction in U.S.-German relations, which has soured noticeably under President Donald Trump.
But there are now growing calls in Germany to halt the project following the poisoning of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny with a military-grade nerve agent in August.
The NDAA passed by Congress last year included a bill that sanctioned any vessel building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, forcing a Swiss-based company to exit the project shortly before its completion.
Russia is now seeking to use its own vessels to get around those existing sanctions and finish the $10 billion pipeline. PEESCA would hinder any Russian ship’s ability to receive the services necessary to carry out the remaining work.
Nord Stream 2 would reroute Russian gas destined for Europe around Ukraine, depriving Kyiv of much-needed transit fees.
Russia initially expected to complete the pipeline in early 2020. After the sanctions on vessels were passed, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped the pipeline would be completed by early 2021.