Sen. Cruz on Upcoming Nord Stream 2 Vote: The Eyes of History are Upon Us
‘Today will be one of our very last chances to stop Nord Stream 2, and to stop an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), spoke this morning in anticipation of a vote the Senate will take later today on his legislation imposing immediate sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline:
“Mr. President, the eyes of history are upon us. Today, each of us will be faced with a momentous question: Can we put petty differences aside and can we come together to defend our friend and our ally Ukraine against imminent Russian aggression? This isn't theoretical. Russian tanks and troops are right now massed on the Ukrainian border and they are preparing for invasion.”
“When this debate is over, each of us will have to decide whether he or she will vote to finally and definitively put an end to this pipeline through mandatory sanctions. Our Ukrainian allies are crying out for us to do so. Ukraine's President and Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament have all explicitly and passionately done so in recent days. Ukraine's Prime Minister said last week Nord Stream 2 is quote, ‘No less an existential threat to Ukraine’s security and democracy than Russian troops on our border.’ That's the Prime Minister of Ukraine begging this body, the United States Senate, to help them.”
“I can tell you, Ukrainian president Zelenskyy has very explicitly addressed this issue. Here's what he said: Quote, “Only if the sanctions are applied prior to the armed conflict would they become a prevention mechanism for any possible escalation.” That's the president of Ukraine, begging the members of this Senate to vote in favor of the bill on the Floor today. Today will be one of our very last chances to stop Nord Stream 2, and to stop an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“If Senate Democrats put partisan loyalty above national security, If they vote, simply by party line, It will dramatically increase the chances of a violent Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“Another argument that we will hear is that sanctions should be kept in our pocket, we should reserve them for use later, in the case of a Russian invasion. Now, I would note, this is not what our Ukrainian allies advocate. And I have trouble believing anyone in this chamber actually takes this argument seriously, nor should they. Putin doesn't.”
“Putin believes that once he brings Nord Stream 2 online, and once he's changed the region through invasion, that no one will have the will to impose sanctions. And I would note, he's not crazy to believe that.”
“And days or weeks or months from now - If we turn on the television set and see Russian tanks in the streets of Kiev, the reason will be that the United States Senate heard the pleas of our Ukrainian allies and we turned a deaf ear to them. I pray that we don't do so. The eyes of history are upon us and this body Republicans and Democrats to rise to the occasion.”
Watch Sen. Cruz speech here. A full transcript is below.
Senator Ted Cruz:
Mr. President, the eyes of history are upon us. Today, each of us will be faced with a momentous question: Can we put petty differences aside and can we come together to defend our friend and our ally Ukraine against imminent Russian aggression?
This isn't theoretical. Russian tanks and troops are right now massed on the Ukrainian border and they are preparing for invasion.
The Senate in just a few hours will vote on a bill that represents the best way to deter Putin from invading Ukraine by sanctioning the company that is racing to finish and make operational the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which Putin desperately wants completed so that he can use it as a cudgel against our European allies.
If we don't come together today, Ukraine risks getting wiped off the map altogether. Putin didn't just wake up one day and decide he wanted to invade Ukraine. He's wanted to invade Ukraine for years and he did so already in 2014. But he stopped short of a full invasion because he couldn't endanger Ukraine's energy infrastructure which he needs to get Russia's natural gas to Europe. That stopped Putin from marching all the way to Kiev.
The next year in 2015, Putin began the Nord Stream 2 project, to build a pipeline to go around Ukraine so that he could get his gas to Europe and invade Ukraine with no risk to the billions he relies on every year.
Nord Stream 2 as we know, as we've heard from Republicans and from Democrats literally hundreds of times over the past years—on this floor, in committees, in briefings—Nord Stream 2 was designed to circumvent Ukraine. It's why the Senate has worked together for years, in a bipartisan manner, to stop Nord Stream 2 from coming online.
In 2017, Congress came together and passed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which sanctioned investments in Russian energy export pipelines.
In 2019, Congress passed Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act or PEESA, which sanctions Nord Stream 2 directly. I authored that bill along with Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
And in 2021, Congress expanded those sanctions in the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Clarification Act. Again, I authored that bill, along with Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
For the next several hours, this body will revisit and debate this issue once again. We will revisit our successes from 2019-21 in using targeted sanctions to end construction of the pipeline. When President Trump signed our bipartisan sanctions in the law, Putin stopped construction of the pipeline literally 15 minutes before the law became effective.
Sanctions worked, they succeeded, and together we won a bipartisan foreign policy and national security victory.
But we will also revisit in this debate the catastrophic decision President Biden made in May of this year to waive those sanctions—the sanctions that had worked, the sanctions that were successful. President Biden waived them nonetheless.
When this debate is over, each of us will have to decide whether he or she will vote to finally and definitively put an end to this pipeline through mandatory sanctions. Our Ukrainian allies are crying out for us to do so. Ukraine's President and Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament have all explicitly and passionately done so in recent days. Ukraine's Prime Minister said last week Nord Stream 2 is quote, ‘No less an existential threat to Ukraine’s security and democracy than Russian troops on our border.’ That's the Prime Minister of Ukraine begging this body, the United States Senate, to help them.
Just this week, a public letter from leaders in Ukrainian Civil Society said and I want to quote this at length—they said quote, ‘Since late October 2021, Russia has amassed more than 120,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border, along with the logistical support for a major new offensive. This menacing buildup had been accompanied by increasingly belligerent rhetoric from senior Russian officials. We believe the green light given to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in May 2021 served as one of the key triggers for the current crisis and must be urgently revised,’ end quote.
Mr. President, in ordinary times that open letter from Ukrainian Civil Society would resonate with both Democrats and Republicans. This is a plea for help!
Opponents of our legislation are clutching at pretexts to avoid doing what we have done many times before and I want to address those pretexts one at a time.
One argument we've heard again and again is that imposing sanctions on North Stream 2 AG, the Gazprom-owned cutout that runs Nord Stream 2, would shatter European unity. That's an argument that's being repeated by the White House repeatedly: that this is all about transatlantic unity—we should give Putin this pipeline because of transatlantic unity.
Mr. President, I urge every Senator to ask a simple question: What unity and with whom?
In January, the European Parliament voted to condemn and stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The vote was 581 to 50. 581 to 50. Mr. President, if you care about transatlantic unity, let me suggest that we side with the 581 and not the 50. The Biden White House's argument is literally, ‘Go with the 50 in the name of transatlantic unity.’ I don't know how you stand up and make that argument with a straight face. 581 to 50.
In August of 2021, the chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee in nine countries opposed explicitly the Nord Stream to US-German agreement, the Biden agreement to allow the completion of Nord Stream 2.
Among those countries that explicitly oppose that agreement: Estonia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
Mr. President, are those countries Europe? Do we care about transatlantic unity with those countries that are begging us to find the courage to stand up to Vladimir Putin?
When President Biden made his deal to allow the pipeline to go through anyway, the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland issued a remarkable joint statement declaring that the decision President Biden made to surrender to Putin—that it created an immediate ‘security crisis for Europe.’ They told us then—Ukraine and Poland—both told us then, as a result of waiving sanctions, we’re going to see Russian troops. They were right.
It's almost as if they understand their neighbor. It's almost as if they understand Putin's desire to reassemble the Soviet Union.
It’s almost as if they believe Vladimir Putin when he said that he believes the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And he wants to bring it back together by force, which I would note would be a grave national security threat to the United States.
Now some will say when they mean European unity, they really mean unity with Germany. Indeed, I've heard members on this floor say ‘Listen, I'm just not prepared to sanction Germany.’
Mr. President, this bill doesn't sanction Germany. It doesn't sanction the German government. It doesn't sanction a German company. It sanctions Nord Stream 2 AG, which is wholly owned and controlled by Gazprom.
This is sanctioning a Russian cutout because this pipeline is a tool for Putin's aggression in Europe.
And even when it comes to unity in Germany, what they really mean is unity with Angela Merkel. And I'll concede that. Angela Merkel wants this pipeline. I don't fully understand why, but she does. But Angela Merkel is no longer the Chancellor of Germany.
Indeed, the German people went to the polls and they voted her party out of office.
So one would think from the United States—to the extent we're concerned about standing with an ally—we should be concerned about the current government of Germany, not the former government. And we should respect the views of the German people.
Now the current government of Germany is hopelessly fractured on Nord Stream 2. The Greens, who are part of this coalition government, passionately oppose Nord Stream 2. Vocally, repeatedly they've condemned Nord Stream 2 and they're an integral part of this German government.
But just a few hours ago, the German Defense Minister—on the other side—said Nord Stream 2 is off the table. They're not willing to do anything to stop Nord Stream 2.
And the German Chancellor has said the same, declaring that he seeks a positive reset with Putin. This is the same Putin that has tanks on the border of Ukraine and he is preparing to invade.
Another argument that we will hear is that sanctions should be kept in our pocket, we should reserve them for use later, in the case of a Russian invasion.
Now, I would note, this is not what our Ukrainian allies advocate. And I have trouble believing anyone in this chamber actually takes this argument seriously, nor should they. Putin doesn't.
Putin believes that once he brings Nord Stream 2 online, and once he's changed the region through invasion, that no one will have the will to impose sanctions. And I would note, he's not crazy to believe that.
When the Biden administration first capitulated to Russia on Nord Stream 2, the Biden administration and the German government made a promise. They said if, if, if, Russia uses energy for energy blackmail, then we will stop the pipeline. They beat their chest with that promise. They were quite bold about it. I've had some members of the Senate say, ‘Well, we've got really strong promises from Germany now.’
Well, what's happened since then? Russia has nakedly and unequivocally used energy for energy blackmail. Energy prices have skyrocketed in Europe.
And Putin is openly boasting, he is laughing and saying ‘Well turn Nord Stream 2 on, your energy prices will go down.’ He's not hiding it. He's not pretending, he did exactly what the Biden White House and the German government said—if you do X, we will stop it. He did it openly, brazenly, laughingly, and absolutely nothing happened. Zero. Crickets.
Mr. President, I ask you as a reasonable man, if the German government and if the Biden White House was unwilling to impose sanctions when Putin immediately triggered what they said was their redline, in what universe will the Biden White House or the German government have greater resolve once millions of Germans are dependent on Russian natural gas from Nord Stream 2 to heat their homes?
When it is literally stopping the Germans from freezing to death, because if the Ukrainian pipeline is shut down it becomes the only viable source of heat. Do we really think they're going to have greater courage then than they have had so far? Nobody does. Putin doesn't.
And it's important to understand, the debate before this chamber is: Do we impose sanctions before an invasion in order to stop the invasion or do we threaten sanctions after an invasion is done?
The bill that my colleague Senator Menendez is pushing would do the latter. It would impose sanctions after an invasion is completed. I don't think Putin believes those sanctions would ever be imposed. But, I can tell you Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has very explicitly addressed this issue. Here's what he said—quote, ‘Only if the sanctions are applied prior to the armed conflict. Would they become a prevention mechanism for any possible escalation?’
That's the president of Ukraine, begging the members of this Senate to vote in favor of the bill on the floor today. Today will be one of our very last chances to stop Nord Stream 2 and to stop an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Just a few minutes ago, two of my colleagues, Senator Murphy and Senator Shaheen, had a colloquy in which they explained why they had flipped their positions. They and every other Democrat in this chamber have voted for sanctions on Nord Stream 2 not once, but twice. Every Democrat voted in support of my bipartisan sanctions on Nord Stream 2.
Only two things have changed since all of the Democrats voted in favor of these sanctions. Number one: The occupant of the White House. Who now has a D behind his name instead of an R.
The White House is furiously lobbying Democrats, asking Democrats to stand with their party, sadly at the expense of our allies, at the expense of Europe, at the expense of US national security.
On the merits, Mr. President, this should be a very easy vote. And I would suggest, if Joe Biden were not President, if Donald Trump were sitting in the Oval Office today, every single Democrat in this chamber would vote for these sanctions. All of them. As they did twice when Donald Trump was sitting in the Oval Office.
The other thing that has changed, by the way, are the Russian troops on the border of Ukraine. Which is exactly what the Ukrainians in the Poles told us what happened when Biden waived these sanctions.
Those are the two things that have changed.
And I have to say my colleagues, Senator Murphy and Shaheen had a very odd colloquy, because they decided to go after me personally instead of focusing on the merits of the issue. And in particular, they said, ‘You know when Trump was President, Senator Cruz didn't hold his State Department nominees over Nord Stream 2. And Trump didn't impose sanctions over Nord Stream 2.’
Now Mr. President, I recognize in politics sometimes—heat of the moment—you say things you don't entirely think through them. But even in the annals of bad arguments, that is a singularly absurd argument. It's true, I didn't hold the State Department nominees over Nord Stream 2. It's true Trump didn't impose sanctions. Why? Because we stopped Nord Stream 2. Because we were successful.
When I authored the bipartisan sanctions, there were significant elements of the Trump administration that resisted it. The Treasury Department fought mightily against it. And I was more than happy to battle my own party on this because this is the right thing to do for US national security. Is there even one Democrat with the courage to do that? Against his own party?
Now that it's the other side, the argument ‘I didn’t hold any nominees,’ why would I hold nominees? President Trump signed the bill!
I've said from the beginning, if Biden imposes the sanctions, I will lift all the holds. I lifted 32 holds in December to get this vote.
My focus is on stopping this pipeline and stopping Putin and Russia. And their argument will be well, Trump didn't impose sanctions. That's correct. Because Putin stopped building the pipeline.
I remind you of the timing: President Trump signed the bill—if my memory serves correctly—at 7pm on a Thursday night. Putin stopped building the pipeline at 6:45pm, 15 minutes beforehand. There was nothing to sanction because they didn't commit the sanctionable conduct—they stopped. They only returned to building the pipeline.
Mr. President, do you know what date Putin began building deep sea pipeline once again? January 24, 2021, four days after Joe Biden was sworn into office. Putin knew that Biden was going to do what he did: Waive the sanctions and surrender. The sanctions worked! We had a bipartisan victory that inexplicably this White House gave away.
Now I want to take a minute to speak to my Democratic colleagues. Listen, there are lots of issues we're going to disagree with in a partisan manner. That's fine. We'll talk about tax rates, whether they should be high or low. We can have good, vigorous arguments about that. That's part of our democracy. But in this instance, the Biden White House is carrying out a policy that makes no sense. That abandons our allies. That is harmful to American national security. That strengthens and encourages the aggression of Vladimir Putin, a bully and a tyrant. And that makes war much more likely.
Most if not all of my Democratic colleagues know all of this. And I'm gonna ask my Democratic colleagues to do something hard, which is have the courage to stand up and take some partisan grief for voting against the White House on this. Save the White House from the mistake they're making. That's one of the roles of the Senate.
We keep hearing the analogy the Framers used of a saucer to cool the tempers of the moment. The Senate did that with President Trump. The Senate should do so with President Biden as well.
In my 10 years in the United States Senate, I've taken a lot of votes. Mr. President, you've taken a lot of votes. There are very few votes I think are as consequential as the vote we're getting ready to take.
If Senate Democrats put partisan loyalty above national security, if they vote simply by party line, it will dramatically increase the chances of a violent Russian invasion of Ukraine. And days or weeks or months from now, if we turn on the television set and see Russian tanks in the streets of Kiev, the reason will be that the United States Senate heard the pleas of our Ukrainian allies and we turned a deaf ear to them. I pray that we don't do so. The eyes of history are upon us, and this body—Republicans and Democrats—should rise to the occasion.