West changes its mind on global sanctions against Russia?
The U.S. is likely to hold off sanctioning any German entities for now over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, according to four people familiar with the matter, as the Biden administration seeks to halt the project without antagonizing a close European ally.
A key report to Congress that was due last Tuesday could be out as soon as Friday, and it’s expected to list only a small number of Russia-linked entities, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the policy hasn’t been announced.
The people familiar with the issue said Secretary of State Antony Blinken is loathe to target companies or individuals from nations like Germany, arguing that it’s more important to find a diplomatic solution and heal rifts created by Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, Bloomberg reported.
Two people familiar with the matter said that while the Trump administration had also shied away from sanctioning German entities, it was preparing such action in its final weeks. Among potential targets was Matthias Warnig, the German chief executive officer of Nord Stream 2 and former East German Stasi agent who has known Russian President Vladimir Putin personally since at least 1991, the people said.
The people said Trump’s National Security Council had developed a detailed plan with a goal of ultimately halting the project, and the only reason sanctions against German entities never happened was that they ran out of time. Two other people familiar with the matter argued that the Trump administration’s plans lacked specificity and never got past the discussion stage.
The report is expected to list a small number of Russian entities that will likely face sanctions. Another set of entities will be seen as safe from the threat of sanctions because they’re unwinding their work with the project.
The European Union, in turn, is set to impose travel bans and asset freezes in response to the jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny on allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, possibly in the run-up to an EU summit, after a meeting of envoys gave approval for punitive measures, diplomats said.
"I expect additional sanctions to be in place before the EU summit in March," said a senior EU diplomat, referring to the March 25-26 gathering of the bloc’s 27 leaders in Brussels. EU foreign ministers meet on March 22.
But there was no discussion of halting the huge Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, however, despite calls from some EU members for it to be targeted with sanctions.