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US Congress aims to block Russian Nord Stream 2 with sanctions

On Wednesday, Republican Senators introduced a bill that would make mandatory U.S. economic sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream pipeline

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US Republican Senators John Barrasso and Cory Gardner have introduced a bill to enforce US economic sanctions on companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. While sanctions already exist relative to other Russian energy project, this bill aims to specifically target the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in a plan to kill it, dead in the Baltic.

Additionally, US Congressmen are upset that Trump held a fairly cordial meeting with the Russian president, instead of spending the entire meeting scolding and slamming him, probably for being Russian the way the rhetoric seems to be headed at this point.

Foreign Policy reports

Tougher U.S. sanctions on the $11 billion natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea, are about the only thing that could kill the project at this point. What’s less clear is whether U.S. natural gas will be able to make up the difference—and whether Europe wants or needs Washington’s help in managing its own energy security.

On Wednesday, Republican Sens. John Barrasso and Cory Gardner introduced a bill that would make mandatory U.S. economic sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream pipeline. Last year, Congress passed tough potential sanctions on Russian energy projects, but the new bill would make them explicitly applicable to Nord Stream and mandatory, rather than leaving them to the president’s discretion. The bill also seeks to streamline the export of more U.S. natural gas to allies such as Japan and members of NATO.

Separately, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday that he will introduce a new bill to put teeth into the existing but still unused sanctions on Russian energy.

Barrasso has been trying to boost U.S. energy exports to allies for years and has been a vocal critic of Nord Stream 2. But energy analysts viewed the introduction of the new bill as a timely response to Trump’s softer language on the Russian energy project in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

The legislation advances Barrasso’s “long-standing goal of finding ways to increase European energy security,” said Laura Mengelkamp, a spokeswoman for Barrasso, who had previously introduced a similar bill. “American natural gas is a reliable and dependable source of energy.”

The United States has been railing for years against big Russian pipeline projects, including Nord Stream 2, that could redouble the European Union’s reliance on Moscow for energy, thus handing Russia potential leverage over the continent’s economic lifeblood. But by promoting U.S. energy exports as a replacement for Nord Stream 2, Washington is sending the wrong message on Russian energy coercion, said Brenda Shaffer, an energy expert at Georgetown University.

“Linking U.S. gas exports to anti-Nord Stream 2 legislation undermines the U.S. position against the pipeline,” she said, because it “reinforces Moscow’s claim that the U.S. is acting out of self-interest, despite that not being the case.”

Another problem is that several big Western European energy firms are helping Russia’s Gazprom to build the pipeline, and Germany—where the gas will arrive—has long supported it. That means that any U.S. action against Russia’s big energy project would actually take aim at nominal friends and allies in Europe; Trump will meet the president of the European Commission in Washington next week to talk about energy security and other issues.

“Sanctioning German and other European companies building Nord Stream at this point, when the U.S. is facing tensions with its European allies and with Germany itself, may inadvertently result in more division between the United States and Europe, rather than strengthening a joint posture against Moscow,” said Agnia Grigas, an energy expert at the Atlantic Council.

But from a U.S. point of view, there are few options left to halt the pipeline, which would double the amount of natural gas shipped directly from Russia to the heart of Europe, largely bypassing Ukraine—traditionally the middleman for Russian energy exports. That role as a transit state earns Kiev billions of dollars in annual revenue and some insurance against seeing itself suddenly deprived of energy supplies, as it has several times in the past. Nord Stream 2 has now secured virtually all of the permits it needs for construction. Workers began laying pipes off the German coast in the Baltic Sea this spring.

America’s impartiality and moral light on a hill position takes a major hit amongst its Western allies when it aims to hit at their energy projects and their companies that are heavily invested in them over not just the bad political blood, but also in a bid to sell their own LNG, which would be considerably more expensive than Russian gas received through the pipeline.

For this reason, and the fact that sanctions on the project would only serve to alienate America from its European allies even further, the Americans aren’t going to do any good with this, other than put some bad political blood in the mix.

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AM HantsVeeNarian (Yerevan)Gio ConWeAreYourGods ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈAJ Recent comment authors
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AM Hants
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AM Hants

They are so obsessed with Russian projects. Did not work the last time, they tried to take out Nord Stream. Funny, they expect Europe to fork out for 11 US LNG Hubs, plus pay for the expensive gas, whilst trying to take out Russia’s energy industry. Surely that is illegal, so why is the WTO so quiet?

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
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VeeNarian (Yerevan)

“That role as a transit state earns Kiev billions of dollars in annual revenue and some insurance against seeing itself suddenly deprived of energy supplies.” This is the fallacy that Banderised Ukraine and its US/EU/NATO gangster backers suffer from. Ukraine has made its “civilisational choice” and they must have the help needed to be independent of the “aggressor” nation Russia. The LIARS and deceivers of the US/EU/NATO gang do not want to fund this independence. So, Bandersied Ukraine is forced to import Russian gas, coal and goods from the “aggressor” nation, and tout for a discount through blackmail. This fundamental… Read more »

AM Hants
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AM Hants

US, Ukraine, Manafort, Russia Gate they all tie in.

Has anybody seen this?

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein as their first witness…

‘… “Paul Manafort was investigated by the federal government by a team of federal prosecutors and FBI agents for all this stuff eight years ago and they exonerated him,” said Napolitano. “And who was the young prosecutor that led that exoneration? Rod Rosenstein.”…

https://www.infowars.com/napolitano-bombshell-manafort-exonerated-of-same-charges-eight-years-ago/

I do believe the defence it going to provide some interesting and ironic comedy to the court case.

Gio Con
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Gio Con

“despite that not being the case”??? What planet is Brenda Shaffer living on? The US is acting TOTALLY out of capitalist self-interest. It’s all about profits. Please stop quoting idiots who have no grasp on reality.

WeAreYourGods ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ
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WeAreYourGods ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

And Congress jumps into action to defend… the financial interests of US-based multinational energy corporations who pay no US taxes! Stunning development. It makes so much more sense for Europe to rely on oil and gas brought in on ships than it does to get their resources from an overland pipeline… right?

AJ
Guest
AJ

The US can huff & puff but Nord Stream 2 will be constructed. This has never been about Russia having leverage over European gas supplies – its about US financial self interest & using Congress to force its position on the rest of the world. Europe needs to take a stand on this & not give in to US bullying. European energy policy is not for the yanks to dictate.

Marc Leif
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Marc Leif

This would be pretty much tantamount to an act of war against both Europe and Russia. Wonder if the Europe poodles would wake up…?

regolo gellini
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regolo gellini

If the crazy neocons continue on this path they will succeed in isolating US completely. At that point, why not drop the dollar as an international currency and take up euros and gold backed rubles instead ?

RussG
Guest
RussG

Remember last winter when Russian LNG saved the UK and northeastern US? Well, when this winter will be even worse, let them “freeze in the dark”. But Putin would never do this; he is too much of a humanitarian and long-game player.

Joris Joseph van Zweden
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Joris Joseph van Zweden

Bunch of lunatics. The US is lost

Guy
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Guy

Under the guise of EU energy security the US is abandoning the precepts of capitalism which they so love to espouse .Hypocrisy at it’s best !

James Johnson
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James Johnson

Selling our oil to Europe will make energy here in America cost more.

Mistaron
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Mistaron

This is behaviour you’d expect from mobsters imposing their protection rackets on those less able to resist.

‘You WILL buy your supplies from us, at much higher rates, or, as the keeper of the reserve currency, I’ll wipe you out financially.’ There. Just about sums it up I think.

USA = Thugs in suits committing organised crime. The mob wasn’t beaten, it just infiltrated Washington and became the political elite.

Bill Spence
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Bill Spence

Too much bluffing with a very weak hand. Does Europe wish to die? Just agree to US commands.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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