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Lobbying in America: how much did Ukraine and Russia spend to promote their interests in the United States

After US President Joe Biden came to power, companies associated with Nord Stream 2 spent more than $ 1 million on lobbying their interests in Washington. In turn, the Ukrainian side focuses on the implementation of sanctions against the Russian gas pipeline - it signed a contract for the entire 2021 with consultants in the USA in the amount of $ 960 thousand. Writes about it Voice of America.

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Recently, the issue of additional sanctions against Nord Stream 2 has acquired new urgency in Washington. The US government argues that the Russian pipeline threatens the energy security of Europe in general and Ukraine in particular, and the US is closely examining companies whose activities could potentially be subject to sanctions.

At the same time, some congressmen and senators are expressing concern that the White House has not yet imposed mandatory sanctions. On Wednesday, April 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed an amendment to the bill to increase aid to Ukraine, which gives the administration from the moment the law enters into force 15 days to decide, or 20 specific companies are subject to restrictions due to their involvement in Nord Stream -2 ".

Nevertheless, while the issue of additional sanctions remains open, you can learn more about who and how is promoting and blocking Nord Stream 2 among American officials, and how much their services cost.

Russian side

The Russian side has attracted at least three American firms to lobbying for Nord Stream 2 in Washington: BGR Government Affairs, Roberti Global and McLarty Associates.

According to the documents, the first two firms work for the Swiss company Nord Stream 2 AG, which is 100% owned by the Russian Gazprom. She is responsible for the "planning, construction and further operations of Nord Stream 2 in Europe." At the same time, McLarty lobbyists are fulfilling orders from European firms investing in the Russian gas pipeline. Among them are the French energy company Engie, the Austrian OMV, the German Uniper and Wintershall and the Dutch Shell International BV.

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Firms do not disclose all the details of their activities - they are registered in the Senate database, which allows for less information in the reports. However, something is known about their activity.

BGR Government Affairs and Roberti Global note that they are pushing the issue in two chambers of the US Congress - the House of Representatives and the Senate. The BGR lobbying subject points to “issues related to the US position on Nord Stream 2”. Roberti uses a somewhat broader formulation: "issues related to the US position on Nord Stream 2, including possible financial sanctions affecting the project."

But McLarty Associates claims in its reports that it is working with the US National Security Council and the State Department. The company notes that their task is "to protect and promote the interests of companies in the dispute over natural gas as an element of European energy security, as well as to provide advice on sanctions against Russia."

How much do companies' services cost? According to the documents, for its work in the first quarter of 2021, BGR Government affairs received $ 240, and Roberti Global - $ 000. McLarty Associates received a total of $ 600. Together, it turns out $ 000. Prices have practically not changed since last year - about the same Firms received sums for their work every quarter in 210. In general, companies associated with Nord Stream 000 spent almost $ 1 million on lobbyist services in the United States in the past.

Interestingly, some representatives of these firms are associated with Ukrainian issues. The senior international advisor to BGR Government affairs is Kurt Volcker, a former US special envoy for Ukraine. Clare Kaiser, director of strategic initiatives at McLarty, is on the board of directors of the US-Ukraine Business Council.

Kurt Volcker replied that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of BGR and comment on customer service. However, he added that his personal position on Nord Stream 2 is unchanged.

“From the moment when I was special representative until now, my personal thought was this: this is a purely political project of Russia, organized in order to bypass Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries, to create levers of influence on them and on Europe by creating incentives for Western Europe. rock the boat with Russia, ”said Kurt Volcker.

When asked how this position relates to the activities of the firm in which he is an advisor, Kurt Volcker did not answer.

Ukrainian side

The Ukrainian side in Washington works with only one firm. She is represented by Yorktown Solutions - she signed a contract with the Federation of Employers of the Oil and Gas Industry of Ukraine. According to the agreement, in 2020 the consultants received $ 960 for their services. The contract for the same amount was continued for 000.

More is known about Yorktown Solutions. Under the contract, the firm provides "promotional, communication and consulting services," which, among other things, are aimed at "effectively eliminating the threats posed by the Nord Stream 2 project." Among them - conversations, correspondence and meetings with the offices of congressmen and senators of the Democratic and Republican parties, with officials in the State Department, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy and the US National Security Council. In addition, Yorktown communicates with experts and employees of leading think tanks in Washington, as well as with journalists from influential Western media - Wall Street Journal, NBC News, Reuters and others.

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The report shows that the firm is working with the Nord Stream 2 issue literally every day. Yorktown Solutions president Daniel Weidich said that after the arrival of the new administration, the actions of his company remained at the same level of activity, but now they have additional urgency.

“It is critical for the United States to fully implement the sanctions,” says Daniel Weidich. - We were heavily involved in the development of this sanctions legislation. So now we are mobilizing support on Capitol Hill, among other players outside of government and within the government, to make sure bipartisan congressional sanctions are fully implemented. ”

Vadim Glamazdin, Development Director of the Federation of Employers of the Oil and Gas Industry of Ukraine, explained what message Ukraine is trying to spread in Washington.

“Our message is very simple. If the construction of Nord Stream 2 is completed, it will mean the beginning of the end for Ukraine as a state, - said Vadim Glamazdin. - This is not only and not so much an energy threat as a threat to the physical security of our country. We have a very simple task and requests. We strive to ensure that the gas pipeline is not completed. And today the only option to ensure the unfinished construction of this project is the full application of the sanctions that Congress made mandatory. "

Rules of the game

Firms on both sides with the same theme, Nord Stream 2, submit their reports to various databases. Yorktown Solutions is filing reports with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

But BGR Government Affairs, Roberti Global and McLarty Associates registered their work with Nord Stream 2 in the US Senate lobbyists database through the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA).

Experts say that registering under the LDA is rather an unusual practice for those who work with foreign clients. Companies and people involved in consulting and working with foreign companies or individuals, foreign politicians or governments of other states must register with FARA. But LDA is usually used to work with domestic American clients.

“Simply put, if a foreign government or political party is the main beneficiary of your efforts, then you must register and disclose your activities through FARA, not through the LDA. But sometimes it is not very clear who is the ultimate beneficiary of the services, ”explains Anna Massoglia, researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. She believes that this could add legal uncertainty.

Through FARA, lobbyists are required to disclose much more details of their activities than under the LDA. In particular, in the first case, careful reports must be submitted of any meetings or conversations with politicians, officials and other players - there is no such requirement in the LDA. In this database, as a rule, you can find information about the amounts and subjects of lobbying, as well as the persons who are engaged in this.

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Anna Massoglia says there may be several reasons why companies decide to register with the LDA rather than FARA.

“Perhaps this is in order to provide less information. Perhaps to fill out fewer papers. Perhaps this is just what firms are used to because their other clients are from the US and firms want to report in the same way. Or they don't think FARA is the best option. It can depend on different things. Also in some circles there is a certain stigma towards foreign agents, so this may be one of the reasons why some people decide to look for other ways to register, ”says Massoglia.

Despite this, according to the researcher, there are a number of exceptions that allow foreign agents to register in other databases and avoid detailed disclosure of their activities.

Anna Massogliya says that, as a rule, if violations are revealed in the reports of lobbyists, they can be obliged to submit all the necessary documents and disclose their activities.

“In such cases, achieving transparency is the best result that can be hoped for,” the expert concluded.

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