By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) says he is holding up the confirmation of the next Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief in order to pressure President Joe Biden to stop Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“I’ll release my hold when the Biden admin meets its legal obligation to report and sanction the ships and companies building [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s pipeline,” Cruz said in a tweet on March 6 as he confirmed an earlier Bloomberg story.
Biden in January picked William Burns, a career Foreign Service officer who served as ambassador to Russia in the 2000s, to be the next head of the CIA.
The 64-year-old was approved by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on March 2 following a confirmation hearing last month.
Senate Republicans have been pressuring the Biden administration to impose sanctions on more companies reportedly involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2.
The pipeline, which is more than 90 percent complete, is designed to reroute Russian natural gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea, circumventing Ukraine.
Congress opposes the pipeline on the grounds that it strengthens the Kremlin hold on Europe’s energy industry and hurts Ukraine, which stands to lose billions of dollars in annual transit fees.
Legislation passed in 2019 to place sanctions on vessels laying the pipeline halted the project for more than a year.
However, Russia has resumed completion of the project with its own ships, pushing Congress late last year to pass new legislation widening the sanctions beyond vessels to include companies engaging generally in Nord Stream 2 activities, including insuring and certifying the project.
The legislation required the administration to update Congress in February on the status of the project and impose sanctions on any companies in violation. The Biden administration identified one vessel and its owner, which were already put under sanctions.
However, some media reports have identified at least a dozen companies involved in the construction.
In a March 3 letter addressed to Biden, 40 Senate Republicans, including Cruz, called the February update “completely inadequate” and demanded the Biden administration impose sanctions on the additional companies “without delay.”
While Biden has called the pipeline a “bad deal for Europe,” his administration is reportedly concerned about the impact additional sanctions would have on its relationship with Germany.