US Congress Targets Nord Stream 2, Turkey S-400 Purchase in New Defense Bill
02:18 GMT 04.12.2020(updated 02:26 GMT 04.12.2020)
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US Congress is taking aim at Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Turkey over its acquisition of the S-400 air defense system in the new National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 that has been finalized and is expected to pass in both houses as early as next week.
The compromise legislation, which authorizes some $740 billion in defense spending, was unveiled on Thursday after lawmakers from both chambers made final modifications to the package. The leaders of the US Senate and House Armed Services committees began talks on Wednesday to reach a deal.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are reportedly trying to schedule the bill for a vote in the coming days.
President Donald Trump earlier this week threatened to veto the bill if it did not include restrictions on social media companies. However, the House and Senate reportedly have enough votes to override a Trump veto, with lawmakers of both parties observing that what Trump wants has nothing to do with defense.
Nord Stream 2 is a planned 745-mile twin pipeline that will carry nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of gas annually from Russia to Germany. The US opposes the project and has been seeking to export more of its own liquefied natural gas to Europe. Moscow has described Washington's actions, including the threat of sanctions, as unfair competition.
The NDAA includes language that expands sanctions designed to disrupt the Nord Stream 2 project, according to a joint explanatory statement released by the conference committee.
"The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1248) that would amend subsection (a)(1) of section 7503 of the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act of 2019 (title LXXV of Public Law 116-92) to clarify and expand sanctions relating to the construction of Nord Stream 2 or Turkstream pipeline projects. The Senate amendment contained a similar provision (sec. 6231)," the joint statement said on Thursday.
Expanded restrictions target a wider variety of companies, including those that render insurance, reinsurance, underwriting, testing, inspection, or certification services "necessary or essential for the completion of such a project."
Providers of services or facilities for technology upgrades or installation of welding equipment for, or retrofitting or tethering" of pipe-laying vessels are also in danger of US sanctions, according to the bill.
About 120 companies from more than 12 European counties will reportedly be affected.
Congress would also require the US federal government to impose sanctions on each individual involved in Turkey's acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system within 30 days after the new defense spending bill is signed into law.
The legislation also includes a provision that would authorize US Air Force Secretary to use the six Turkish F-35A aircraft that were never delivered to Ankara after Turkey was suspended from the F-35 program.
Since 2018, the United States introduced measures to pressure Ankara into canceling the S-400 purchase, including removing Turkey from the F-35 aircraft supply chain, despite added costs to the program. The Trump administration earlier proposed buying the S-400s from Ankara in a bid to break the deadlock.
Washington has claimed that the S-400 is incompatible with NATO security standards and could compromise the operations of the F-35 jets.
On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey's purchase of Russia's air defense systems S-400 is no "trap" for NATO, as the systems will be fully controlled by Ankara.
Troop drawdowns overseas
The new legislation would also require the Pentagon to meet additional requirements provided by Congress before moving forward with a withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and Germany.
The US plans to reduce troop levels to 2,500 in Afghanistan by mid-Janaury as a result of an agreement struck with the Taliban earlier this year. After reaching the agreement with the Taliban in February, the US reduced troop levels from 10,000 to 8,600 by July, before a second-phase reduction to 5,000 by November.
Trump, ostensibly to punish Berlin for underpaying NATO dues, ordered the withdrawal of troops from Germany. In July, then-US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that the United States planned to withdraw 12,000 troops from Germany. Most of those troops, or 6,400 people, were planned to by returned to the United States. The move, if it occurs, would reduce the number of US troops stationed in Germany to 24,000.
US lawmakers are also seeking to prohibit the Department of Defense from using its financial resources to transfer or free any of the remaining prisoners from the so-called 'Global War on Terror' held in Guantanamo Bay.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|