‘Superficially About National Security’: Rand Paul Breaks With GOP On Nord Stream 2 Sanctions

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FILE PHOTO: Logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a large diameter pipe

Thomas Catenacci on January 10, 2022

Sen. Rand Paul broke with Republicans over potential legislation reimposing Nord Stream 2 pipeline sanctions on a Russian state-run company.

Lawmakers who argue in favor of sanctioning the pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea, are more concerned with “mercantilism and protectionism” rather than national security, the Republican senator argued in an editorial published by The American Conservative on Monday. Paul also questioned whether an aggressive sanctions regime would have the desired effect of preventing Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“Opponents of the pipeline, not surprisingly, are largely from states that compete in the sale of natural gas,” Paul wrote. “Acknowledging that this debate is only superficially about national security and really more about provincial protectionism helps us better understand the dynamics.”

“History demonstrates that trade and interconnectedness between nations is a barrier to war. Engaging in mutually beneficial commerce coupled with a potent military deterrence is the combination that best promises peace,” he said.

The Kentucky senator added that during his time in office he has received “blank stares” from the State Department when asking about the effectiveness of sanctions.

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In May, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would waive sanctions placed on the pipeline by former President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden gave a stamp of approval to the $11 billion project, which is operated by the Russian state-run firm Gazprom, on July 21 after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Construction of the pipeline was completed in September, but the German government has yet to give the final green light for the project to come online.

Sen. Ted Cruz and several other Republicans, meanwhile, have held up several Biden administration nominations until more is done on the issue. A spokesperson for Cruz told the DCNF in December that the national security implications of the pipeline were driving the Texas senator’s push for sanctions to be reintroduced.

“Biden made a preemptive concession at the beginning of his administration without going to the table and talking with Putin,” former Under Secretary of Defense Robert Wilkie, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, previously told the DCNF.

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“The Ukrainians have figured correctly that the Europeans are going to be neutered, they’re not going to want to turn off that flow for economic reasons,” he continued, making the national security case for sanctions like Cruz. “And that leaves the United States, and perhaps the Eastern European friends of America, particularly Poland, as their only buttress against Russian adventurism.”

On Dec. 18, Cruz struck a deal with Democratic leadership to free up several blocked nominations in exchange for a floor vote by Jan. 14 on a standalone bill which would impose sanctions on the pipeline immediately, Politico reported. Democrats, however, are expected to first hold a vote on a bill written by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez which would only reimpose sanctions on the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.

Paul wrote Monday that sanctions contingent on a Russian invasion “might actually have deterring value,” signaling potential support for Menendez’s version.

Paul’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Experts have long been split on whether sanctions lead to desired geopolitical results. Some argue economic sanctions are an indispensable tool for resolving international conflicts while others have said such measures have a limited effect.

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“Coercive economic instruments work less often in achieving major policy objectives like military impairment or political regime change than achieving modest policy goals like releasing a political prisoner or resolving a minor trade dispute,” University of Memphis professor Dursun Peksen wrote in an article for the Center for a New American Security in 2019.

“The use of sanctions to achieve the ambitious goal of regime or leadership change might even backfire by inducing insecure leaders to become more authoritarian and use repressive means against the domestic opposition to cling to power,” he added.

Cruz’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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