As senators square off over the restoration of sanctions against a major Russian natural gas pipeline project, it has been revealed that a top lobbyist for the Nord Stream 2 project has been flooding key Democrats with campaign cash.
Among those, according to Axios, is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. This week, Schumer called Republican demands to include sanctions that could stop the recently completed pipeline “inexplicable and outrageous,” according to Politico.
In 2019, former President Donald Trump signed a law imposing sanctions against any entity that helped Russia bypass Ukraine by creating the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will carry Russia’s natural gas to Germany via a pipeline running under the Baltic Sea, according to the BBC.
Trump said the line would make Germany a “hostage of Russia.” Russia currently supplies about 40 percent of the natural gas used by the European Union’s member nations.
The line is also opposed by supporters of Ukraine. Because much of Russia’s existing natural gas delivery system runs through Ukraine, that’s considered a potential deterrent to a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Absent the need to preserve their pipeline infrastructure, Ukraine becomes a target, so the fears run, according to The Washington Post.
In May, in what was framed by Insider as “Biden’s gift to Putin” the Biden administration waived those sanctions, saying that transatlantic unity was more important than the pipeline.
Republican senators did not agree and attached an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that put Trump’s sanctions back in place.
As that debate hangs fire, Axios reported that Vincent Roberti, a former Connecticut state representative, has donated $5,800 – the maximum allowed — to Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Patty Murray of Washington. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire received the maximum primary contribution of $2,900.
Cortez Masto and Hassan face potential battles to win re-election in 2022.
Roberti’s firm, Roberti Global, was paid more than $8.5 million to lobby for the pipeline, according to lobbying disclosure records referenced by Axios.
The pipeline needs all the friends it can get.
Further, an effort to end debate on the NDAA shorn of the amendment failed 45-51, far short of the 60 votes needed to move it forward, according to Radio Liberty.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the bill will not progress unless the Nord Stream 2 sanctions amendment is included.
“Considering sanctions on the pipeline that fuels [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s encroachment over Europe, including provisions from Senator [Jim] Risch that closely mirror language that the House added unanimously, is certainly worth the Senate’s time,” McConnell said.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said in a statement on his website, “The Biden administration is at risk of creating a generational, geopolitical catastrophe for the U.S. by allowing Nord Stream 2 to come online. American weakness has already emboldened Putin to escalate his use of energy as a weapon and regional aggression. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reassert our bipartisan consensus that Putin’s pipeline is bad for American national security and the security of our allies, and to impose sanctions on entities constructing the pipeline before it is able to come online.”
Risch said Biden and Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding.
“Putin is also publicly warning European Union leaders to quickly certify NS2 if they want relief from Europe’s worst gas crisis in years,” he said, according to Cruz’ news release, adding that Russia is “creating and weaponizing this energy crisis.”
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