U.S. senators weigh additional sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators said on Wednesday they could draft further sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Moscow finishes laying pipes for the project.

U.S. sanctions legislation originally sponsored by Senators Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, in December halted work by Swiss-Dutch company Allseas on the pipeline that aims to boost Russia’s gas exports under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

Now a Russian pipe-laying vessel aims to finish the remaining 100 miles (160 km) of the project, led by state gas company Gazprom (GAZP.MM). The pipeline, aimed at bypassing Ukraine, could be launched by the end of 2020 or early next year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, opposes the project on the grounds it would strengthen Putin’s economic and political grip over Europe.

Lauren Blair Aronson, a spokeswoman for Cruz, said “all options remain on the table” to stop Nord Stream 2 from being completed. “There are still sanctions options that were drafted and discussed in 2019, which would significantly broaden the scope of sanctions,” she said.

If last year’s bill doesn’t stop the project, Aronson said, “of course those options will be revisited.”

Shaheen “has been closely monitoring the situation in the Baltic Sea and Russian attempts to circumvent existing sanctions and is evaluating all options, including additional sanctions,” said spokesman Ryan Nickel.

Nord Stream 2 did not immediately return a request for comment. The Nord Stream 2 consortium includes Uniper (UN01.DE), Wintershall-Dea (BASFn.DE), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), OMV (OMVV.VI) and Engie (ENGIE.PA).

A senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said some lawmakers had recently spoken with Richard Grenell, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Germany, about the possibility of new sanctions legislation.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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