Ukraine calls on US Senate to sanction Putin’s pipeline weapon

US senators are expected to vote in the coming days on a bill to introduce new sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The controversial energy infrastructure project had earlier been opposed by the US, but the Biden Administration waived sanctions in May 2021 in a bid to repair ties with Russia’s pipeline partner Germany. On the eve of the vote, representatives of Ukrainian civil society have issued the following appeal calling on senators to back sanctions.  Text of the Appeal below.

The brief version of the Letter of Apeal was published on 11 January 2022 on the Atlantic Council's site. 

 

Ukrainian civil society representatives

 

As representatives of Ukrainian civil society, we call on the US Senate to back the new bill sanctioning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and encourage the Biden Administration to provide necessary defensive weapons to Ukraine swiftly.

 

In July 2021, the US and Germany committed themselves to “hold Russia to account for its aggression and malign activities by imposing costs via sanctions and other tools.” Since then, Russia has maliciously cut gas flows to European countries, contributing to the creation of an artificial gas shortage that caused gas prices to spike to record levels. This has threatened Europe’s ability to supply heat during the winter season. The US has responded by sending shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), reminiscent of the delivery of the coal to West Berlin by airlift during the Soviet blockade in 1948-1949.

The revenues of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in the year 2021 approached the record high set in 2013-2014.However, just as then, Russian President Vladimir Putin will use these super-profits not to improve the lives of Russians but to expand and modernize his armed forces and embark on new foreign policy ventures, not only in Ukraine and the Caucasus, but also in Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America.

 

Since late October 2021, Russia has amassed more than 120,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border along with the logistical support for a major new offensive. This menacing build-up had been accompanied by increasingly belligerent rhetoric from senior Russian officials. 

We believe the green light given to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline served as one of the key triggers for the current crisis and must be urgently revised. At present, Ukraine’s gas transit system is vital for the delivery of Russian energy supplies to the EU market. Since the outbreak of Russian hostilities towards Ukraine in 2014, the need to keep this transit system operational has served as a critical deterrent against an escalation in Russian aggression.

However, the Kremlin has been slowly but surely working to reduce this reliance by bypassing Ukraine with projects such as Nord Stream 1, TurkStream and Blue Stream. Currently, Gazprom is forcing development of the project “The Power of Siberia - 2” and LNG-project in Yamal in the interests of China and to pressure Europe to break the Trans-Atlantic ties with the U.S. and Canada. If Nord Stream 2 becomes operational, this will eliminate the deterrent value of Ukraine’s gas transit system and free Putin to expand his attack on the country.

 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed on January 9 that if Russia renews its aggression against Ukraine, “it would certainly be difficult to see gas flowing through [Nord Stream 2] in the future.” We cannot agree. On the contrary, there are good reasons to believe that if Russia damages or destroys Ukraine’s gas transmission system, Germany will not halt Nord Stream 2. Indeed, Putin may be counting on it.

Germany could justify such a controversial decision by citing the lack of alternative pipeline routes and arguing for the need to address Russian aggression via dialogue and diplomacy. Kevin Kuehnert, a senior official from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which leads Germany’s new coalition government, recently confirmed these fears, telling Reuters that Nord Stream 2 “should not be mixed up with responses to Russia's territorial controversies with Ukraine.” Similar statements have also been voiced by the Austrian Federal Chancellor. 

 

These messages are being issued in spite of German experts calling for an evaluation of Russia’s ability to use gas flows through Baltic Sea for military purposes.

There are many other reasons why Nord Stream 2 should be sanctioned. It undermines transatlantic unity as most Central and Eastern European countries oppose the project. The pipeline will make Europe more dependent on Russian gas and increase Putin’s geopolitical leverage over the continent, while violating EU energy legislation and the European Union’s own Green Deal. It also contradicts the White House’s anti-corruption memorandum.

The coming days are a critical period for European security. Putin is currently weighing up the risks and benefits of a dramatic escalation in his war against Ukraine. It is critical to deter him now before it is too late.Putin needs to get a clear and unambiguous message that Nord Stream 2 will not start working. We would therefore urge the U.S. Senate to adopt S.3436 Protecting Europe's Energy Security Implementation Act.

We also call upon senators to encourage the Biden Administration to provide Ukraine as soon as possible with the necessary defensive weapons to help the country defend itself against Russian aggression. This should include anti-aircraft, anti-drone, and anti-sniper systems along with access to signals intelligence and satellite data.

 

Russian aggression against Ukraine is part of a global conflict between democracy and a resurgent brand of authoritarianism championed by Vladimir Putin. This conflict began in Ukraine and developments in Ukraine will be decisive in determining the ultimate outcome. Nord Stream 2 is one of Putin’s most important geopolitical weapons. By blocking this pipeline and helping Ukraine improve its defenses, the US can help protect Ukrainian sovereignty and European security while defending America’s own vital national interests. 

 

Signatories

 

Hanna Hopko, Head of the Rada Committee on Foreign Affairs (2014-2019), Board Member at the National Interests Advocacy Network ANTS

 

Olena Halushka, Board Member at the Anti-corruption Action Center

 

Mykhailo Gonchar, President of the Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI”, Adviser to the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (1996-2000)

 

Gennadiy Kurochka,Co-founder of Ukraine Crisis Media Center

 

Lesia Matviychuk, Head of the Board of the Center for Civil Liberties

 

Mykhailo Zhernakov, Chair of the Board of DEJURE Foundation, Judge of the Vinnytsia District Administrative Court (2012-2015)

 

Olena Kravchenko, Director of the International Charity Organization “Environment-People-Law”

 

Ostap Yednak, Secretary of the Rada Committee of Environmental Policy and Nature Protection (2014-2019), Board Member at the ANTS National Interests Advocacy Network

 

Agiya Zagrebelska, Head of the Board at the Antitrust League

 

Ostap  Kryvdyk, Advisor to the Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine (2016-2019), RCDS Member

 

Olga Tokariuk, Journalist, Nonresident Fellow at CEPA (Center for European Policy Analysis)

 

Alya Shandra, Chief Editor, Euromaidan Press

 

Oksana Yurynets, Professor of Lviv Polytechnic National Universities, Ukrainian MP (2014-2019), Former Chairwoman of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO PA (2018-2019)

 

Daria Kaleniuk, Executive Director at the Anti-corruption Action Center

 

Andriana Arekhta, veteran, Head of the Ukrainian Women Veteran Movement

 

Natalka Popovych, co-founder of Ukraine Crisis Media Center

 

Vasyl Myroshnychenko, director of Ukrainian-British City Club

 

Roman Bezsmertnyi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (ret.)

 

Maksym Kyiak, Executive Director at the Institute for Central Europe, fellow at the Pennsylvania state government (USA, 2011).

 

Photo by: Atlantic Council 

 



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