55 senators, including six Democrats, voted for the bill proposed by Republican Senator Ted Cruz. 46 were against, including Republican Rand Paul. The draft provided for the imposition of sanctions on the gas pipeline operator within 15 days of the adoption of the law.
The vote was the result of an agreement between Cruz and the Democrats that allowed the project to vote in return for Cruz’s end to block the ambassadorial appointments for President Joe Biden.
The failure of the project is the result of, inter alia, White House pressure to persuade the Democrats – who previously supported the overwhelming majority of sanctions – in order not to interfere with diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis with Russia. The Biden administration also argued that the sanctions could undermine the agreement with the German government, which undertook to suspend NS2 in the event of Russian aggression. The Ukrainian authorities, in turn, lobbied for the adoption of the bill.
During the pre-vote debate Cruz accused the Democrats of voting against only because the president is currently Joe Biden and not Donald Trump. He added, “if Russia invades Ukraine, it may be because the US Senate heard and ignored the pleas of our Ukrainian allies.” In turn, the head of the Democrat’s foreign affairs committee, Bob Menendez, accused Cruz of cynicism and stated that the imposition of sanctions could be a pretext for Russia to launch an invasion.
Menendez on Wednesday announced his own draft sanctions – including both NS2 and much wider restrictions against Russian energy and financial companies and Russia’s cut-off from the SWIFT system – which would be activated in the event of a Russian invasion. The project is endorsed by the White House.