Senate Democrats Block Bipartisan Bill to Sanction Putin’s Pipeline

Sen. Sullivan: “Nord Stream 2 is Putin's pipeline. Let's not make it his lifeline.”

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today voted with 54 of his colleagues for a bill to impose new sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which runs between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea. The bipartisan majority of senators failed to meet the 60-vote threshold necessary for the legislation, introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), to pass the Senate.

Sen. Sullivan spoke on the Senate floor shortly before the vote, criticizing the Biden administration for upending the long-standing bipartisan foreign policy of making America’s European allies less vulnerable to Russian energy blackmail, and calling out many of his Senate Democratic colleagues for rescinding their previous support for Nord Stream 2 sanctions in the 2020 and 2021 National Defense Authorization Acts.


Thank you, Mr. President. I want to commend my colleague from Wyoming, Senator Barrasso who  has been a leader on so many of these issues, and Senator Cruz on his bill, this important piece of legislation that we're going to be voting on here in a couple hours.  

And, Mr. President, this Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill is not just about the immediate crisis in Ukraine, but this would be a continuation of long-term bipartisan American strategy as it deals with Russia, energy security, and American security. I want to provide a little broader context to that bipartisan strategy, Mr. President, and put this debate and vote that we’re having here today into that context.

The United States’ commitment to European security as we all know is ironclad. We fought two World Wars, a Cold War to protect our interests in a free and open Europe. We expanded NATO to secure those gains, and to prevent Russia from ever building a new empire that could threaten us or our allies. 

But, Mr. President, as we all know, Russian power is not just a function of military power. To the contrary, Vladimir Putin and the Russians, for decades, have been using energy in terms of power, and energy as a weapon. As a matter of fact, it's their weapon of choice in many instances in Europe.

Let me provide a few recent examples. If you look at this map, one pipeline that's actually not depicted is the so-called “Brotherhood Pipeline” from Russia into Ukraine, and it goes into Europe. The Russians have cut off supplies of natural gas on that and other pipelines going through Ukraine in 2006, in 2008, in 2014, and in 2015.

In Moldova, shortly after the defeat of a pro-Russian government and the election of a pro-Western one, Russia did what they normally do: they cut off gas to that country. And, Mr. President, it's not just impacting countries like Ukraine. When these gas supplies were cut off by Russia, because Vladimir Putin was angry about something, it impacted over 18 E.U. countries with regard to those cutoffs—and it's happening even today. 

Just yesterday, Mr. President, the head of the International Energy Agency in Paris said that Russia is already, right now, strategically limiting natural gas to Europe during this very cold winter to pressure European nations not to support Ukraine as the Russians amass tens of thousands of troops on their border as we speak.

For these reasons, Mr. President, it has been the long-standing bipartisan American policy to do two things as it relates to energy security. 

First, we have sought, dating back to the 1980s, to block implementation of major pipelines from Russia, from then the Soviet Union, into Europe. The Reagan administration did this with sanctions in 1982, and we have continued to work this element of our policy. 

The other element of American bipartisan policy as it relates to European energy security has been to help countries, former Soviet Union countries, particularly in the Caspian and Central Asia area, to provide their own energy outlets in terms of natural gas and oil to Europe through the southern corridor, the BTC pipeline—these are all areas that Democrats and Republicans have been involved with in terms of energy supplies to our European allies that don't go through Russia. 

Mr. President, some of the diplomacy here on these pipelines started with the Clinton administration, which did a very good job on this. I had the opportunity as an assistant secretary of state in charge of economic and energy issues in the Bush administration to lead efforts on these southern corridor pipelines. And they were successful.

Right now, these pipelines are providing energy to our allies in Europe. They don't go through Russia. They start in countries like Azerbaijan and go through Georgia, go through Turkey. This has been very bipartisan, supported by the Senate, and the Russians hate this. They hate it. Why? Because it doesn't give them any control over energy into Europe.

So, Mr. President, as I mentioned, today's vote is actually part of a long-term bipartisan American strategy, for decades, that we have been pursuing because we know the Russians use energy, particularly natural gas, as a weapon. 

How have we been doing on this? Well, at the end of the Trump administration, we were in a very good position on European energy security in two key areas.

First, as Senator Barrasso mentioned, we had strong, very strong bipartisan support with regard to Nord Stream 2 sanctions—on its construction and in operations. We had overwhelming Republican and Democrat support for the sanctions that we’re going to be voting on today in the 2021 NDAA, and in the 2020 NDAA. Very big, very bipartisan.

Another reason we were set up very well, Mr. President, in terms of Eurasian energy security, is that at the end of the Trump administration, we had achieved a long-standing bipartisan goal of American national security, economic security, and energy security. What was that? Energy independence. 

We once again had become the world's energy superpower. What do I mean by that? The largest producer of oil, bigger than Saudi Arabia. The largest producer of natural gas, bigger than Russia. One of the biggest producers of renewables in the world. This is a bipartisan goal. 

With regard to European security, why was that so important? Because it answered a huge question that the Europeans often said: If we're going to block Nord Stream 2, Russian gas into Germany and other places in Europe, where are we going to get the gas?  

Well, we had an answer. You’re going to get the gas from America. Our exports of LNG, liquefied natural gas, surged to Asia and Europe to take care of this problem. This is a good thing! And, Mr. President, in terms of the environment and climate, US LNG exports to Europe have a 41% lower emissions profile than Russian gas and pipelines to Europe. So it's good for the environment, climate, national security, and energy security. 

And here's another area: This big production of American energy was something that the people who know Vladimir Putin best knew was one of the biggest things we could do.

A couple of years ago, I was in a meeting with my colleague who we miss very much here—Senator McCain—and a Russian dissident, a very famous Russian dissident. And at the end of the meeting, I said, what more can we do to undermine the Putin regime? 

Mr. President, you know what he said to me? He looked me in the eye without hesitation saying “produce more American energy.” That's the number one thing you can do undermine the Putin regime. And we did it! We did it.  

These are all things—in addition to strengthening our own military, in addition to giving the Ukrainians Javelin missile systems—all of these things were putting us in a good position. Putin seemed very much in a box and certainly wasn't threatening Ukraine with tens of thousands of troops on the border. Where are we today on these key areas that I just mentioned?

Well, Mr. President, we're not in such good shape. In terms of energy independence, this administration seems focused on actually destroying the production of American energy—oil and gas in particular. I guarantee you that the dictators in Moscow, as well as in Beijing, can hardly believe their luck. It seems like President Putin wants to undermine the very bipartisan goals we've had for decades: American energy independence and the United States as the world's energy superpower again. 

Just think about what he's seeing: [President Biden] cancels pipelines—the Keystone Pipeline in Canada and the United States—and the President is green-lighting Nord Stream 2, killing energy production in great states like mine. Just Monday there were more obstacles to produce energy in Alaska. And now we're importing two times as much oil from Russia as we were a year ago. That's helping Putin, and hurting the United States. 

And Mr. President, what about Nord Stream 2, where we looked so strong just in the past few years, with this body, in a strong bipartisan way, sanctioning that pipeline right there?

Well, President Biden has greenlit it, but we don't have to. That's the point of this vote today. And, again, this vote is not just about the current crisis in Ukraine. It's about continuing a long-term bipartisan approach to Eurasian energy security that would make our European allies less vulnerable to Russian energy blackmail, which has not only gone back decades, it is literally happening right now. Just listen, as I mentioned, to the International Energy Agency's report yesterday on this topic. 

And, Mr. President, to be honest, it's also about a more political question, this vote today. Many of my Democratic colleagues suddenly became very hawkish against Russia and Putin on these issues and other issues during the Trump years. And I welcomed their conversion to a more hardline approach. 

But it always begged the question: Was that more hawkish conversion a principled one, because they realized being tough on Putin in terms of energy and our military was the best way to achieve American national interests, or was this conversion more of a temporary one depending on who occupied the White House? 

I hope it's not the latter, but today's vote will answer that for some of the senators who are looking to change their recent votes. But clearly some of my colleagues just a few years ago, who were voting to sanction and stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and were sounding very tough on Vladimir Putin and Russia, are now in a bit of a quandary if they vote differently today. 

Not surprisingly, they’re making arguments to rationalize this new position and I'd like to review briefly, Mr. President, just a few of those.

Senator Murphy has been down on the floor, the junior senator from Connecticut, with a lot of these arguments, and I respect his thoughtful voice on foreign policy. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s a serious voice. 

But, Mr. President, his arguments on this issue right now are not very persuasive or powerful. Here's the thing he's saying right now: “This isn't about Russia.” And I'm quoting Senator Murphy. This is about “a Cruz-Trump agenda to break up the Atlantic alliance.” A Cruz-Trump agenda to break up the Atlantic alliance.

He's clearly trying to make a boogeyman here, the so-called Cruz-Trump agenda. But, Mr. President, serious people who’ve been working on these issues for decades know that what we're doing today is a continuation of long-term bipartisan support for a really important energy security policy for the United States and our European allies. This is continuing that long-standing approach.

In his quote on the “Cruz-Trump agenda,” [Murphy] said this is actually about keeping the Atlantic relationship going to “save Ukraine from an invasion.”

But where is the President of Ukraine on this issue? What does the President of Ukraine, who knows a little bit about power politics and Putin, think about what we're doing here today?

He supports sanctions on Nord Stream 2. That's where Senator Murphy is starting to dig a little deeper on his weak arguments and trying to provide cover for his colleagues who are going to change their vote. He had to respond on where President Zelensky of Ukraine was. 

Here's what Senator Murphy said about that: “I'm a big supporter of President Zelensky, but he often misreads American politics, and I think it would be better for him to have stayed out of this one.”  

Wow! So the leader of the country that many of us think this is all about, who certainly knows what Russian energy power politics are about, since he's been on the pointy end of that weapon many times—we now have a senator saying President Zelensky, sit down, be quiet. Stay out of this one. We don't want to hear from you. even though this is about “saving your country.” Unless, of course, you support his position on Nord Stream 2.

So, Mr. President, these are very weak arguments by the senator from Connecticut.

The most legitimate argument I've heard some of my Democratic friends make on switching their vote on their previous Nord Stream 2 sanctions is that the Germans—a very important ally, we all agree on that—don’t want us to apply Nord Stream 2 sanctions. 

Okay, that's an argument we should all consider. And this is what I've heard Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan telling senators this week as they lobby against this vote we're going to take. Although earlier in the year, it was reported in the press that both of them actually supported Nord Stream 2 sanctions.

But, Mr. President, here's the thing on that argument. It's actually hard to tell what the Germans really want. In fact, what the Germans really want seems to be changing by the hour. 

There was a recent change in government in Germany, and the new foreign minister herself has said that the country should not grant Nord Stream 2 regulatory approval in order to resist “Russian blackmail on energy prices.”

This is the current Foreign Minister of Germany! It's also important to remember where the rest of the European Union is. There is broad opposition in Europe on Nord Stream 2.

The European Parliament voted last year on an overwhelming cross-party basis of 581 to 50 in favor of cancelling the entire project in the wake of the arrest of Alexei Navalny, a Russian democracy leader who Putin first tried to kill before locking away in prison.  

The European Parliament has voted at least four further times on other resolutions to call on the E.U. to halt this very project, which is what we're looking to vote on today. 

And, finally, Mr. President, outsourcing this very important foreign policy, national security, American issue to the Germans is simply not wise. 

The Germans have not always been so clean or level-headed when it comes to Russian gas, Gazprom, and Nord Stream 2. 

What am I talking about? Well, of course, I'm talking about the former Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, one of the biggest betrayers of the West, certainly in the last century. 

He left his chancellorship to become Putin's Gazprom lapdog. He's the main lobbyist pushing Russian gas all over Germany and Europe. He's an embarrassment to the Atlantic alliance, he now is the chairman for many years of Gazprom, the former chancellor of Germany.

And of course he's influenced Germans to say this is good. He's made millions doing it, by the way. He should be sanctioned with other Putin cronies. 

But at the end of the day, Mr. President, this shouldn't be outsourced to Germany. What we need to do is make a vote on what's right for American national security. 

A vote that sanctions this pipeline would be consistent with long-term, very bipartisan American-Eurasian energy security policy.

Make no mistake, my colleagues: Nord Stream 2 is Putin's pipeline. Let's not make it his lifeline. 

I encourage all of my colleagues to do what they've done recently, in the last couple of years, which is to vote in an overwhelming bipartisan manner to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

I yield the floor. 

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