May 19 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Wednesday sanctioned Russian companies and vessels participating in the construction of a Russia-to-Germany pipeline while exempting a German company and its chief executive from the punitive measures.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the sanctions in a statement Wednesday, stating the department submitted a report to Congress designating several ships, five entities and one person to be sanctioned for their involvement in construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Baltic Sea pipeline that aims to meet Europe's energy needs by taping into Russia's mass gas reserves.
Of those named in the report, Blinken said he has determined "it is in the national interests of the United States" to waive sanctions for Nord Stream 2 AG, its CEO Matthias Warnig and the company's corporate officers.
"We will continue to oppose the completion of this project, which would weaken European energy security and that of Ukraine and Eastern Flank NATO and EU countries," he said. "Our opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is unwavering."
Like the Obama and Trump administrations before, the Biden administration has been against the $11 billion pipeline project, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki stating days after Biden's inauguration that he believes it to be "a bad deal for Europe."
The two previous administrations were against the pipeline fearing it will weaken Europe's security by strengthening Russia's influence over the region.
The move to waive sanctions on the Germans was quickly met with criticism from politicians across the aisle.
Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho and the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday called the State Department's decision was "a gift to Putin" that only weaken's the United States' leverage ahead of scheduled talks between the two world leaders next month.
"This administration is prioritizing perceived German and Russian interests over those of our allies in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe," Risch said in a statement. "The administration should fix today's mistake before it's too late."
Before reporters Wednesday, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said the United States will continue to underscore strong bipartisan opposition to "this Russian malign influence project."
"Our goal is to reinforce European energy security as well as safeguard against any type of predatory behavior that Russias has demonstrated in its past actions," she said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the move by the State Department was a positive one.
"We see this as a constructive step, which we are happy to further discuss with our partners in Washington," he said during a press conference.