Democrats push rival bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine

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Senate Democrats are proposing new sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine

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The Democrats’ proposal is to demonstrate their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty by giving them White House-backed legislation and increasing US promises of financial pain for Russia, which has staged thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders. The Democratic bill opens the door for more penalties related to the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.

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“This law makes it absolutely clear that the US Senate will not stand idle as the Kremlin threatens to invade Ukraine again,” Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement ousting the Democrats. ‘ Prohibition law.

The Biden administration and Democratic leaders are also aiming to shut down any Democratic votes in the Senate to rival legislation by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz’s law would impose new sanctions on pipeline operators whether Russia invades or not. Nord Stream 2 has been manufactured but has not yet been put into operation.

Cruz’s legislation is due for a Senate vote this week. Its prospects are uncertain. It would need at least 10 Democratic votes to pass the chamber and it is unclear whether it will be brought to a vote in the Democratic-controlled House.

Republicans have portrayed top Democratic opposition to Cruz’s bill as President Joe Biden and other Democrats showing weakness against Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is a sharp political point given the Democratic criticism that President Donald Trump was too respectful of the Russian leader.

Democratic lobbying from the White House and Democratic lawmakers against his bill “works to Putin’s advantage. While Russian tanks prepare to attack,” Cruz tweeted this week.

The Biden administration argues that Cruz’s proposal could damage relations with valuable ally Germany, which, like the rest of Europe, relies on imported natural gas. The passage of Cruz’s law has led administration officials to say there is a united front between the US and its European allies to punish Russia for attacking it. Democrats say the crackdown will strengthen Putin’s hands.

The Democratic measure would target Putin, his civil and military leaders and major Russian financial institutions. It is less aggressive against Nord Stream 2 than Cruz’s bill, saying the United States should “consider all available and reasonable measures to prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from becoming operational.”

The pipeline will double the amount of gas pumped directly into Germany by Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom. Running under the Baltic Sea, it bypasses existing links through Poland and Ukraine. Gazprom argues that this will make long-term supply more reliable.

Critics of the pipeline say it increases Russia’s leverage over Europe, pits member states against each other and deprives Ukraine and Poland of billions earned from transit fees. Europe went into winter with low gas reserves, which have pushed prices up to eight times as early as 2021. Putin has used that supply crisis to help push his push for eventual German and European approval of the project.

The head of the International Energy Agency on Wednesday blamed Russia for worsening Europe’s natural gas crisis and said high prices and low storage levels stemmed largely from Gazprom’s behavior.

The US and allies have begun working on contingency plans should Russia proceed to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and others, according to a person familiar with the plan, who was not authorized to comment publicly. and spoke on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday. Currently, there are above average inventories in Asia. Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and Qatar are other suppliers that can take steps to fill the breach.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he believes Germany will not start operating the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, whose government is eager to cooperate with the West. Germany’s new government has not given a definitive public answer on that point.

National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horn argued on Wednesday that imposing new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 regardless of whether Russia invades or not, as Cruz’s bill would, removes the advantage that sanctions threaten. provides.

Horn said, “We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would trigger serious costs to the Russian economy if Russia further invades Ukraine, as President Biden and our allies and partners have made clear that we will.” “

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David McHugh contributed from Frankfurt, Germany.

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