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The Senate voted 55 to 44 against a proposal for a new round of sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 natural gas project led by Russia's Gazprom.
According to opponents in the U.S. Congress, the project will deepen Europe's dependence on Russian gas while giving Moscow the opportunity to use gas supplies as a weapon against Europe.
"Russia has nakedly and unequivocally used energy as energy blackmail," Senator Ted Cruz, author of the measure, said yesterday on the Senate floor, as quoted by Bloomberg. And Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, had done this "openly, brazenly and laughingly and absolutely nothing happened."
"The government of Germany should have shelved this project itself a long time ago," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "These sanctions, like the prior Nord Stream 2 sanctions that had overwhelming bipartisan support here in Congress, are not about driving a wedge in Europe. The pipeline itself is the wedge."
However, opponents of further sanctions argued that it would affect U.S. relations with Germany, which is set to be the biggest beneficiary of the pipeline but only when it approves it, which is going to take at least another few months. There are also German companies involved in the project.
The administration, for its part, has argued that sanctions now could limit Washington's power of persuasion in the future if it decides to work with European allies to impose more severe sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
Germany, meanwhile, has made it clear that the Nord Stream project is an entirely separate issue from events in and around Ukraine.
"We should not drag (Nord Stream 2) into this conflict," Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said this week, as quoted by Reuters. "We need to solve this conflict, and we need to solve it in talks - that's the opportunity that we have at the moment, and we should use it rather than draw a link to projects that have no connection to this conflict."
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com