Ted Cruz lifts diplomatic holds after Biden sanctions Russia’s Nord Stream 2

Republican senator had held up dozens of key State Department nominees in protest over president's initial decision not to sanction pipeline

Ted Cruz of Texas speaks outside the Capitol building in Washington following a roll call vote in the US Senate. Reuters
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Ted Cruz, a US senator from Texas, announced on Wednesday that he is lifting his months-long blanket hold on dozens of key diplomatic nominees after President Joe Biden placed sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline amid the Ukraine crisis.

Mr Cruz had slow-walked several State Department nominees from advancing in the Senate Foreign Relations committee and blocked their speedy confirmation on the Senate floor in protest over Mr Biden’s use of waivers to avoid sanctioning Nord Stream 2.

Mr Biden had initially refrained from sanctioning the pipeline for fear of alienating Germany. But Germany suspended the operationalisation of the pipeline on Tuesday, paving the way for the Biden administration to sanction it.

Mr Cruz said in a statement that sanctioning the pipeline is “the right decision” but called on the Biden administration and Congress to “take additional steps” that would “permanently lock in sanctions".

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin “believes that Nord Stream 2’s activation is a fait accompli now that it has been physically completed, and that any barriers or sanctions are only temporary".

The president announced the Nord Stream 2 sanctions after co-ordinating with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine,” Mr Biden said in a statement. “As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate.”

The US president announced the first series of Russia sanctions on Tuesday.

Those sanctions name the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Company (PSB), along with 42 of their subsidiaries.

He has also promised to enact sanctions on the Russian elite and their family members.

Updated: February 23, 2022, 9:44 PM