U.S. senators want Biden to speed sanctions over Nord Stream 2 pipeline

WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. Senate Democrats urged President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday to make a full diplomatic push to stop the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, increasing pressure on the issue from members of his party.

Senators Bob Menendez, the influential chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen, who chairs the panel’s Europe subcommittee, sent a letter asking Secretary of State Antony Blinken to implement sanctions allowed under existing laws.

“This pipeline must be stopped and your leadership is required towards that end,” they wrote.

“We do... urge that the effort to build strong Nord Stream 2 sanctions packages be accelerated to meet the urgency of the moment,” they said, noting that the pipeline will be completed this year if construction continues unimpeded.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nord Stream 2, led by Russia state energy company Gazprom with its Western partners, would double the capacity of an existing link to take Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

The pipeline would bypass Ukraine, likely depriving it of lucrative transit revenues and potentially undermine its efforts against Russian aggression.

Biden administration officials have spoken out against pipeline, but close ally Germany needs Russian gas as it weans itself off nuclear and coal plants. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)