U.S. President Joe Biden has added sanctions on the Russian company that built the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to its series of penalties targeting Moscow as Russia continues its military escalation in eastern Ukraine.
The move comes a day after Germany had halted certification of the $11 billion project led by the Kremlin. Harsh sanctions against the controversial undersea pipeline have been among the most anticipated responses from the Western nations.
If switched on, the new Russia-to-Germany pipeline would have allowed Moscow to send additional 55 billion cubic meters of gas under the Baltic Sea.
Germany relies on Moscow’s Gazprom for more than half its gas, and Russia has been using Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical lever amid the deepening energy crisis in Europe.
As Moscow continues to send its troops to Russian-occupied parts of Ukrainian Donbas after recognizing the regions as independent states on Feb. 21, the U.S. didn’t hold back. The country first imposed sanctions targeting two Russian state banks, Russia’s sovereign debt and Russian elites.
Biden went ahead with sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 operator as alarming reports about the Kremlin’s plans to further invade Ukraine continue to mount. Last year, he blocked such measures using a national security waiver.
“These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement. "Through his actions, President (Vladimir) Putin has provided the world with an overwhelming incentive to move away from Russian gas and to other forms of energy.”
Biden said that the U.S. and Germany have coordinated their efforts to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia further invaded Ukraine.
“We will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate,” he said.
The sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 have been the most forceful move taken so far to impose economic and financial penalties on Moscow.
Construction of the 1200-kilometer undersea pipeline was completed in September, but the pipeline was awaiting approval from the German Federal Network Agency since then. The project is an extension of the already operating Nord Stream pipeline.