The Biden administration, in a move nobody anticipated, will lift sanctions on Nord Stream AG, the company based in Switzerland and currently building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. Sanctions will also be waived against Matthias Warnig, CEO of Nord Stream and ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
At the same time, sanctions will be levied on a number of Russian ships participating in the final stages of Nord Stream 2's construction.
This planned move also sets up a bizarre situation in which the Biden administration will be sanctioning ships involved in the building of Nord Stream 2 but refusing to sanction the actual company in charge of the project.
Sources close to the situation say that top Biden officials have determined that the only way to potentially stop the project — which is 95% complete — is to sanction the German end users of the gas.
And the Biden administration is not willing to rupture its relationship with Germany over Nord Stream 2.
A State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration had made clear that companies participating in Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions and would "continue to underscore U.S. strong, bipartisan opposition to this Russian malign influence project."
"The Biden administration has been clear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and that of Ukraine and eastern flank NATO allies and partners," the spokesperson said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports of the impending US sanctions waiver were "a positive signal". German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters: The lifting of sanctions is an expression of the fact that Germany is an important partner for the US, one that it can count on in the future."