The White House minimized complaints from Democratic lawmakers over President Joe Biden's decision to strike a deal with Germany regarding the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Biden was committed to sanctioning Russia, despite permitting construction of the 764-mile undersea pipeline owned by state company Gazprom to proceed, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday.
"Our objective is to prevent or reduce the geopolitical impact that it was going to have," she said aboard Air Force One.
Biden hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House last week. The pair had tasked aides with proposing "practical measures" that would address "root issues" with the project, Psaki said. But she repeated that works to pump Russian gas to Germany were already "90%" complete by Biden's inauguration.
The Nord Stream 2 agreement preceded a separate announcement Wednesday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would visit the White House on Aug. 30.
Ukraine, in particular, has been upset with Biden's equivocation over the pipeline given Russia's history of leveraging its natural resource advantage against its neighbors. Ukraine and Poland are bypassed by the project, a financial loss for both countries.
Psaki's statement announcing Zelensky's trip described it as underscoring Biden's support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as energy security. Yet, on Air Force One, she said the meeting was "unrelated" to Nord Stream 2.
Germany will help preserve Ukraine's gas transit revenues, giving Ukraine more time to become independent of Russia, Psaki added of the accord. The Russo-Ukrainian War has been ongoing since 2014 when the Kremlin annexed Crimea.
"Germany will do this by committing to appoint a special envoy," she said.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters Wednesday he was “not happy" about the Nord Stream 2 deal. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin called allowing Russia to finish the pipeline a “mistake.”
The arrangement was foreshadowed in May when the White House sanctioned eight Russian companies and ships involved in the building of Nord Stream 2 but used presidential authority to waive penalties for their European operators and investors.
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Original Author: Naomi Lim
Original Location: White House downplays Democratic dissension over Nord Stream 2 deal