Reporter Grills Biden Admin On Russian Pipeline: ‘Are You Saying’ Democrat Senators Are ‘Irrational’?

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Associated Press reporter Matt Lee grilled State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday over a deal that the Biden administration made with Germany to allow for the completion of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Price said that the administration came to the conclusion, “as any rational observer would, that sanctions are unlikely to stop, to stand in the way of the completion of the pipeline, to prevent the pipeline’s construction. And so, that is why this administration determined that it was not in our interest to significantly undermine, to weaken our bilateral relationship, our ally, the relationship we have with our ally, Germany…”

QUESTION: Really? That’s it?

MR PRICE: That is it.

QUESTION: You have nothing else to say? Okay. All right, well, I was going to start with Sesame Street and —

MR PRICE: Grover asked some hard-hitting questions.

QUESTION: My daughter – yes, exactly. My daughter —

MR PRICE: You might want to take a cue.

QUESTION: My four-year-old daughter is an enormous fan, and I’m sure she’ll love to see it. But I won’t start with that, because there are other, more pressing matters.

MR PRICE: I would welcome it.

QUESTION: I’m sure you would. Toria, up on the Hill, just a while ago said that you guys have reached an agreement with the Germans on Nord Stream 2, and so I’m wondering if you – recognizing their – that this joint statement that she talked about hasn’t come out, yet … I’m just wondering if there’s any more you can add to what she said ahead of the release of that statement.

MR PRICE: There is not more that I’m prepared to add right now. We talked about this some yesterday, and we talked about our rationale in approaching this challenge, and I made very clear yesterday, as did the president in his meeting with Chancellor Merkel earlier this month, that we continue to oppose Nord Stream 2. We continue to view it as a Kremlin geopolitical project whose goal is to expand Russia’s influence over Europe’s energy resources. We continue to believe it’s a bad deal for Germany, it’s a bad deal for Ukraine, it’s a bad deal for Europe and Europe’s broader energy security goals.

QUESTION: And yet you’re prepared to allow it to go ahead without —

MR PRICE: And —

QUESTION: — without trying to – without trying to stop it, even at this late hour?

MR PRICE: And to demonstrate that opposition, we have consistently applied sanctions and examined potentially sanctionable activity, and acted on that. And of course, we have in May imposed sanctions on 19 entities and vessels, and at the same time – as you’ve heard from the secretary, as you’ve heard from the president – we have come to the conclusion, as any rational observer would, that sanctions are unlikely to stop, to stand in the way of the completion of the pipeline, to prevent the pipeline’s construction. And so, that is why this administration determined that it was not in our interest to significantly undermine, to weaken our bilateral relationship, our ally, the relationship we have with our ally, Germany, for a —

QUESTION: Okay, but it’s really – no need —

MR PRICE: — but if I could just —

QUESTION: There’s no need to repeat everything that you said yesterday.

MR PRICE: — no, no, no, but if I could just finish a couple points – for a pipeline whose construction would continue, nonetheless.

Now, to your question – and I mentioned this yesterday, or I alluded to it – the Germans have put forward useful proposals, and we’ve been able to make progress on steps to achieve our shared goal, and that shared goal is very important. That shared goal is ensuring that this pipeline cannot be weaponized against Ukraine, against any other European partner. That is our goal in doing so. I do expect we’ll be able to share more details on this today.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR PRICE: But one other point I want to really emphasize here: We are committed to following the law; we are committed to continuing to examine entities that have engaged in potentially sanctionable activity. Any decisions on sanctions or sanctions-related decisions, those will be made on a case-by-case basis consistent with the law.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, just three very quick points. One. If you’re committed to following the law, then you would actually follow the law, right? Which says that —

MR PRICE: And we have, correct.

QUESTION: Well, I think that a lot of people think that’s debatable. The second thing is that you say “any rational observer” would realize that sanctions wouldn’t stop this. Well, are you saying that members of Congress, who are Democrats as well as Republicans, are irrational?

MR PRICE: We have looked at this —

QUESTION: Are you saying that Senator Shaheen is irrational, that Senator Menendez is irrational —

MR PRICE: We —

QUESTION: — because they think that this could actually be stopped?

MR PRICE: We’ve looked at this issue very closely, and we have examined —

QUESTION: And they haven’t?

MR PRICE: I’m speaking for us.

QUESTION: Oh, right. So you —

MR PRICE: I’m the spokesperson for the Department of State.

QUESTION: So you know more than they do? That’s the idea?

MR PRICE: I’m saying I can speak to the Department of State, and what I can say is that we have looked at this issue very closely. We examined a range of options, a range of tools at our disposal. We came to the conclusion that for a pipeline that was 90 – more than 90 percent complete, on the day this administration assumed office, to potentially undermine our relationship with Germany, and to send a signal to our allies and to our partners the world over that the United States is willing to throw asunder important relationships, that’s not something that we were eager to do, certainly.

We also know that perhaps now more than ever we need our allies, we need our partners, across a range of challenges to confront a host of threats. And in this briefing room, we’ve discussed our cooperation with Germany on any number of fronts, from the PRC, to Afghanistan, to the climate crisis, to the shared values that we have more broadly.

I will also say that even as we came to this conclusion and going forward, we have shown that we are going to always follow the law. We enacted sanctions, as I said, in May on 19 entities and vessels. That is in contrast to two sanctions that were levied by the previous administration under which more than 90 percent of this pipeline was completed.

QUESTION: All right. The last thing, and it’s kind of a minor thing, but you keep referring to this – to the pipeline as a Russian geopolitical project, as if in some way the phrase “geopolitical project” is pejorative. Why?

MR PRICE: Well —

QUESTION: There are innumerable U.S. policies that are geopolitical projects.

MR PRICE: Of course. Our —

QUESTION: So why do you —

MR PRICE: No, no. I don’t – we have not intended the term “geopolitical project” to be —

QUESTION: Yeah, you have. You use it constantly. It’s, like, in the talking points along with —

MR PRICE: It is – to us, it is more than a pipeline.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR PRICE: It is more than a pipeline that carries —

QUESTION: Well, so is your campaign against Huawei and 5G, so is your campaign against any number of things.

MR PRICE: I don’t think you’re going to find – I don’t think you’re going to find – I didn’t —

QUESTION: So “geopolitical project” is not intended to be a —

MR PRICE: A geopolitical – a —

QUESTION: — and not intended to be pejorative?

MR PRICE: Oh, no, no, no. It is —

QUESTION: You’re not saying that Russia can’t have geopolitical projects because you don’t like them.

MR PRICE: States have geopolitical projects.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR PRICE: This is a geopolitical —

QUESTION: That’s all.

MR PRICE: No, no, but you asked the question.

QUESTION: Well, I did, but —

MR PRICE: This is a geopolitical project intended to exert, and to expand, Russia’s influence over Ukraine and other parts of Europe.

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