WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Friday slapped sanctions on one Russian vessel and two Russian individuals involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, but opponents of nearly-completed project said the move would do little to stop it.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the administration has now sanctioned a total of seven persons and identified 16 of their vessels as blocked property under sanctions law passed by Congress.
U.S. President Joe Biden separately issued an executive order on Friday allowing for sanctions to be imposed with respect to certain Russian energy export pipelines.
But opponents of the $11 billion project to bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea said the new sanctions were not strong enough.
“These sanctions do nothing to halt Nord Stream 2,” said Daniel Vajdich, president of Yorktown Solutions, which advises the Ukrainian energy industry on the matter.
Biden has opposed the pipeline, like the previous two U.S. presidents, because it bypasses Ukraine, likely depriving it of lucrative gas transit fees and potentially undermining its struggle against Russian aggression.
But in May the U.S. State Department waived two sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the company behind the project, and its chief executive, Matthias Warning, a Putin ally.
Biden has sought to repair U.S. relations with Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, as he needs the ally’s help on everything from the economy to relations with China and Iran.
“The only thing that can stop NS2 from becoming operational is lifting the waivers and sanctioning … Nord Stream AG, which they refuse to do,” Vajdich said.
Nord Stream 2, led by Russian state energy company Gazprom and its Western partners, is almost complete with only 9 miles (15 km) left to construct, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based nonpartisan research group, estimated it could be completed by September 3.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; editing by Chris Reese, Kirsten Donovan)