State Department spokesman, Ned Price, got into a heated exchange with an Associated Press reporter who asked if the Biden administration was taking credit for former president Donald Trump‘s accomplishments during a briefing on Monday.
In a report required by Congress, the State Department named 18 mostly Western companies that would not be subject to sanctions.
The companies made ‘good-faith efforts to wind down activities related to Nord Stream 2,’ Price told reporters. ‘This demonstrates that the legislative goals and our actions are having a good effect,’ he said of bipartisan US opposition to the project dating back to Trump’s time.
That’s when Associated Press reporter Matt Lee challenged Price for suggesting that President Joe Biden was responsible for a policy that had started under the Trump administration.
State Department spokesman, Ned Price (pictured Monday), got into a heated exchange with an Associated Press reporter who asked if the Biden administration was taking credit for former president Donald Trump’s accomplishments during a briefing on Monday
‘You guys have only been in office for a month, right? Are you telling me that in the last four weeks these 18 companies all of the sudden decided to say, “Oh my God! We better not doing anything with Nord Stream 2,”‘ Lee said.
‘You guys are taking credit for stuff the previous administration did. Yes or no?’
In response, Price said: ‘I am speaking for the Department of State, the people who have been working this. The people who are working this now were the same people a month ago [and] the same people three months ago.’
He publicly named just one firm that would be subject to US sanctions – Russian tuna company KVT-Rus, which he said had been engaged in piping activities for Nord Stream 2.
Biden has maintained criticism of Nord Stream 2, saying that it emboldens Russia and weakens leverage of vulnerable nations such as Ukraine.
But the Biden administration has also pledged a more cooperative approach with European powers including Germany, which argues that the project is vital for its supply of energy despite concerns on Russia.
‘When it comes to our allies and partners, it is fair to say that they would not be taken by surprise by any action we would take,’ Price said.
‘We will continue to monitor activity that could lead to additional penalties including sanctions, but I think it would be wrong to think of sanctions as the only tool in our toolbox here.’
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee challenged Price for suggesting that President Joe Biden was responsible for a policy that had started under the Trump administration
Biden has maintained criticism of Nord Stream 2, saying that it emboldens Russia and weakens leverage of vulnerable nations such as Ukraine. Tugboats get into position on the Russian pipe-laying vessel Fortuna in the port of Wismar, Germany, on January 14
The Biden administration on Friday added a layer of sanctions to the Russian vessel and the shipowner for their work on the gas pipeline.
But the move was immediately criticized as inadequate by senior Republican lawmakers who noted the administration had not penalized any additional companies or individuals for work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
They also said the new sanctions were redundant as they duplicate existing penalties that the Trump administration had imposed on the pipelaying ship Fortuna and its owner KVT-Rus in January.
Opposition to the pipeline and its potential impact on Europe has increased since the poisoning and arrest of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the crackdown against demonstrators protesting in his support.
In an op-ed published in Politico, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau and his Ukranian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba warned that Russia was ‘dangerously close’ to completing Nord Stream 2.
If it succeeds, Ukrainians will be convinced that the West did not care about their security, they wrote.
‘We call on US President Joe Biden to use all means at his disposal to prevent the project from completion,’ they wrote.
Lawmakers of Trump’s Republican Party in turn accused Biden of reneging on his pledges to get tougher on Russia.
‘This report is a gift to the Russians and their ongoing efforts to undermine European energy security, destabilize Ukraine and facilitate corruption and malign influence throughout Europe,’ said Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Risch said last week that he is ‘deeply troubled and disappointed by the State Department’s report on Nord Stream 2 activities and their decision to forgo additional sanctions on other entities involved in its construction’.
‘Congress has passed multiple bipartisan laws regarding this project, and specifically broadened the mandatory sanctions to include the types of pipe-laying activities occurring right now. The administration´s decision to ignore these activities demands an immediate explanation.’