Biden administration sets Senate Nord Stream 2 briefing after pushback on sanctions waivers

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WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) - Officials from President Joe Biden's administration have agreed to brief U.S. Senate committee staff on Monday about its decision to waive some sanctions related to Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, after some lawmakers - some of Biden's fellow Democrats as well as Republicans - questioned the decision.

"They will be up here in front of the (Senate Foreign Relations) committee," Senator Jim Risch, the panel's senior Republican, told reporters on Thursday, who also noted that he expected Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be asked about the decision when he appears at a hearing on Tuesday.

A State Department report sent to Congress on Wednesday concluded that Nord Stream 2 AG - the company behind the Russian gas pipeline to Germany - and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, engaged in sanctionable activity. But Blinken immediately waived those sanctions, saying that it was in the U.S. national interest. read more

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"I don't understand. Do they not want to make Putin mad? I don't get that. Do they not want to get Germany mad?" Risch said during a meeting with reporters. He said he has discussed the matter with Blinken and others, but had not had specifics.

A Risch aide said the committee had asked for a staff-level briefing after the Nord Stream decision was announced and the administration had agreed. He said it would take place on Monday, but they did not yet have details on who would be speaking.

Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the foreign relations panel, also opposed the decision to waive the sanctions, which had been placed on the pipeline project on concerns it would strengthen Putin's economic leverage in Europe. Menendez said on Wednesday after the announcement that he expected to hear "very soon" about the administration's plans moving forward.

Senator Kevin Cramer and about a dozen of his fellow Republican senators said they would introduce legislation on Thursday to reinstate sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers.

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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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