The United States is supporting Canada’s decision to allow a Canadian company to return turbines from a Russian pipeline that supplies natural gas to Germany, saying in the short term it was the right move, as European countries continue working towards reducing their “collective dependence” on Russian energy.
In a U.S. State Department statement issued Tuesday, department spokesperson Ned Price said work is ongoing to further target and limit Russia’s ability to use energy-derived revenue in its ongoing attacks on Ukraine, while also seeking to limit the impact of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on the global energy market.
“The United States is united with our Allies and partners in our commitment to promoting European energy security, reducing our collective dependence on Russian energy, and maintaining pressure on the Kremlin,” the statement said. “We support the Canadian government’s decision.”
On Saturday, Canada announced it had decided to grant a “time-limited and revocable permit” to allow Siemens Canada to return Nord Stream 1 turbines to Germany from Montreal where they had been sent for repairs.
The equipment had been held up in Canada after the federal government imposed sanctions on Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom. The gas giant claimed it needed the turbines in order to continue supplying Germany, after already considerably decreasing the gas flow through the pipeline.
German Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck recently told Bloomberg that there was concern within Germany that if the turbines were not returned ahead of scheduled maintenance, that Russia could cite that as a reason to further cut off its natural gas supply to the country, leaving Germany without a sufficient reserve.
Despite the backing of the Americans, Canada’s decision has sparked strong criticism from Ukraine and its supporters, who are calling on Canada to think again, suggesting the federal government’s decision has given Russia leverage that they will continue to try to exploit when it comes to the energy sector.
“What Russia now knows is that Canada and Germany blinked,” said Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Alexandra Chyczij.
‘DANGEROUS PRECEDENT’: MPS
Domestically, the federal opposition parties have also come out hard against the move.
On Monday, NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson issued a scathing statement calling for Canada to reverse the “shocking and disappointing” decision.
“This decision goes against the sanctions Canada imposed on Russia in response to the illegal invasion and genocide in Ukraine. Canadians expect their government to show real solidarity with Ukraine but the Liberal government’s decision is an affront to Ukrainians,” McPherson said.
“How will Canada have any legitimacy in asking other countries to hold Russia accountable for its crimes when we do not adhere to our own sanctions?”
Key members of the federal Conservative caucus have also decried the decision, saying in a statement on Sunday that in circumventing their own sanctions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government “sets a dangerous precedent of folding to Putin’s blackmail of Europe, and will negatively impact Canada’s standing on the world stage.”
There’s now some pressure building for the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to hold a special summer meeting to discuss the decision and examine the efficacy of the federal sanction regime.
On Saturday, in a statement about the decision, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said that allied countries “cannot allow” Putin’s attempts to use European energy security to sow division amongst allies to be successful.
“Canada stands with Ukraine against the unprovoked, brutal invasion by Russia and we will continue to work in coordination with allies and partners to impose severe costs on the Russian regime,” Wilkinson said.
Alongside the decision to returning the key pieces of pipeline infrastructure, the federal government announced the imposition of a new round of sanctions targeting Russia’s oil and gas sector.
“We will not stop imposing these severe costs on the Putin regime while their unjustifiable invasion is ongoing. We will continue to support our European friends and allies as they work to end dependency on Russian gas imports as quickly as possible by working to help stabilize emergency markets and to develop long-term and sustainable solutions on energy supplies,” the minister said in his statement.
With a report from CTV National News’ Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier