WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats on Wednesday proposed new sanctions against Russia if it invaded Ukraine, seeking to derail a Republican proposal that the White House said could undermine unity with European allies.
The Democrats’ proposal seeks to give them White House-backed legislation to demonstrate support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and increase US pledges of financial suffering for Russia, which has staged tens of thousands of soldiers along the borders of Ukraine. The Democratic bill opens the door to more sanctions related to the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.
“This legislation makes it clear that the US Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a reinvasion of Ukraine,” Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. press release featuring the Democrats. sanctions legislation.
The Biden administration and Democratic leaders are also aiming to block any Democratic Senate votes for rival legislation from Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz’s legislation would lead to new sanctions against pipeline operators whether or not Russia invades. Nord Stream 2 was built but has not yet entered service.
Cruz’s legislation is due to be voted on in the Senate this week. Its outlook is uncertain. It would take at least 10 Democratic votes to pass the chamber and it is not clear whether it would be subject to a vote in the Democratic-controlled House.
Republicans have described the main Democratic opposition to Bill Cruz as President Joe Biden and other Democrats showing weakness against Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is an acute political point given Democratic criticisms that President Donald Trump was too respectful of the Russian leader.
The White House and Democratic lobbying of Democratic lawmakers against his bill is working “for Putin’s benefit.” As the Russian tanks prepare to invade, ”Cruz tweeted this week.
The Biden administration contends that Cruz’s proposal could hurt relations with Germany’s valued ally, which, like the rest of Europe, depends on imported natural gas. Passing Cruz’s legislation would risk dividing what administration officials insist it is a united front between the United States and its European allies to punish Russia in the event of a ‘invasion. Democrats say the breakup would strengthen Putin’s hand.
The Democratic measure would target Putin, his civilian and military leaders, and major Russian financial institutions. It is less aggressive immediately against Nord Stream 2 than Bill Cruz, asserting that the United States “should consider all available and appropriate measures to prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from becoming operational”.
The pipeline would double the volume of gas pumped by Russian public gas giant Gazprom directly to Germany. Passing under the Baltic Sea, it bypasses existing links via Poland and Ukraine. Gazprom argues that this would make long-term supply more reliable.
Pipeline critics say it increases Russia’s influence over Europe, pits member states against each other and robs Ukraine and Poland of billions earned from transit fees. Europe entered winter with meager gas reserves, pushing prices up to eight times what they were at the start of 2021. Putin took advantage of this supply shortage to push for it. German and European final approval of the project.
Wednesday, the head of the International Energy Agency blamed Russia for the worsening natural gas crisis in Europe, claiming that the high prices and low storage levels are largely a result of Gazprom’s behavior.
The United States and its allies have started working on contingency plans should Russia decide to cut Ukraine and others off gas supplies, according to a person familiar with the planning who has not been permitted to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. Currently, there are above average stocks in Asia. Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and Qatar are other suppliers who could step in to fill the gap.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believed it was extremely unlikely that Germany would start operating the pipeline if Russia invaded Ukraine, whose government was eager to ally with the West. . The new German government has not given a definitive public response on this point.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne argued on Wednesday that imposing new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 whether or not Russia invades, as Cruz’s bill would remove the effect leverage provided by the threat of this sanction.
“We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would result in significant costs to the Russian economy if Russia further invades Ukraine, just as President Biden and our allies and partners have made it clear that we will,” Horne said. .
David McHugh contributed from Frankfurt, Germany.
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