‘The Pipeline’s Already Been Built’: Biden State Department Defends Waiting For Invasion To Further Sanction Russia

(Screenshot/State Department)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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State Department spokesman Ned Price defended the Biden administration’s decision not to further sanction Russia before it invaded Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday.

Holding back on major sanctions for Russia, including ones related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, gave the United States more leverage to use now that the conflict is escalating, Price argued. Associated Press reporter Matt Lee followed up with Price multiple times, pointing out that it didn’t appear that additional leverage served much of a purpose as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion into the Donbas.

“You guys have been saying for months, indeed for over a year since the waivers were first granted, that in fact this gave you additional leverage … and would serve as a deterrent,” Lee posed. “Clearly it didn’t provide you with any leverage at all that we can tell.”

“How do you explain to people why you didn’t impose these sanctions earlier?”

Price countered that the fact Germany acted so quickly and decisively alongside the United States to shut down the pipeline was proof that the administration’s cooperation and strategy had worked. The Biden administration waived sanctions on the company building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany in 2021 after the Trump administration imposed sanctions with the aim of stopping the pipeline’s completion.

It was only after Russia invaded Ukraine this week that the U.S. and Germany stepped in to once again sanction the entities running the pipeline and halt its operations. (RELATED: Trump Spent Years Sabotaging Putin’s Nord Stream 2 Dreams. Now Biden Is Helping Them Come True)

“The pipeline’s already been built. Whether it gets turned on or not is another question,” Lee pressed. “But presumably you had more leverage, and I don’t understand why you don’t think that you would have had more leverage, if these sanctions had been imposed before the pipeline was finished.”

Price said that the pipeline was already 90% built when President Joe Biden took office and that the U.S. may not have been able to stop its construction anyway if it acted alone without Germany to keep sanctions on.

“Had we sanctioned Nord Stream 2 AG, had we sanctioned its corporate officeholders, it is far from clear that that would have kept the pipeline from going into operation,” he said.

He continued to say that now the pipeline was an $11 billion “hunk of steel” in the bottom of the ocean and that if the pipeline had become a sunk cost months ago for Moscow, it wouldn’t have granted Washington any leverage at all.

“It hasn’t anyway,” Lee countered before Price called on another reporter.