In Victory for Putin, Congress Drops Sanctions From Proposed Defense Bill

An updated version of the proposed U.S. defense spending bill does not include a provision to bring sanctions over Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, an apparent win for President Vladimir Putin.

The most recent version of the National Defense Spending Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (NDAA) was released Tuesday, the same day President Joe Biden had a video call with Putin.

The House of Representatives' last version of the spending bill, from mid-October, included a section on the "imposition of sanctions with respect to Nord Stream 2."

Those sanctions pertaining to Nord Stream 2, which runs from Russia to Europe, were not included in the updated version of the proposed bill, according to an explanatory statement from the House Committee on Rules.

"The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1325) that would direct the President to impose sanctions over Nord Stream 2," the statement said. "The Senate amendment contained no similar provision. The agreement does not include this provision."

Putin defense spending bill
An updated version of the proposed defense spending bill does not include sanctions over Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses delegates during the Congress of the United Russia Party on December 4 in Moscow. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Some Republican senators sought to impose sanctions over the pipeline as discussions about the NDAA went on last month.

GOP Senator Ted Cruz of Texas continued calling for the sanctions while speaking on the Senate floor this week. He suggested that the recent buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine's border was a "direct consequence" of the Biden administration's decision back in May to waive sanctions on the company involved with the pipeline.

At the time, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said waiving the sanctions was "in the national interest of the United States." Blinken noted the U.S. would "continue to oppose the completion" of the pipeline and said that opposition was "unwavering."

Administration officials have encouraged members of Congress to stop pursuing sanctions over the pipeline, according to recent reports by Axios and NBC News. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that debates over possible pipeline sanctions were part of the reason the traditionally bipartisan annual spending bill was not speeding through Congress.

Following Biden's Tuesday video call with Putin, the White House said the president "voiced the deep concerns" about Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine and "made clear" that any escalation by Russia would result in "strong economic and other measures" from the U.S. and its allies.

Later Tuesday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan was asked during a White House press briefing about comments some GOP politicians have made about Biden being "too weak" with Putin, including in terms of the waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Sullivan said the pipeline's current status means it is advantageous for Putin.

"When it comes to Nord Stream 2, the fact is, the gas is not currently flowing through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which means that it's not operating, which means that it's not leverage for Putin," Sullivan said. "Indeed, it is leverage for the West, because if Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine."

Newsweek reached out to the House Committee on Rules for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Update 12/7/21, 4:15 p.m. ET: This story was updated with more information and background.