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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Merkel Defends Deal with US over Russian Natural Gas Pipeline

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday defended a compromise agreement with the United States to allow the completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to transport fuel from Russia to Germany without further U.S. sanctions.

He called the agreement, announced Wednesday between Berlin and Washington, “good for Ukraine,” even though the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 line, 98% complete, would ignore Ukraine and Poland. Germany and the United States have said they are committed to blocking any attempt by Moscow to use the new path as a political weapon to control energy supplies to Europe.

Germany and the United States agreed to fund alternative energy and development projects in Ukraine and Poland, although both countries expressed displeasure at the agreement, saying it was not enough to reduce the threat of Russia’s control of energy.

“Differences remain. We saw that in yesterday’s reaction,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, acknowledging opposition to the deal in the US Congress.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland in a joint statement said the German-US agreement creates “political, military and energy threats to Ukraine and Central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilize the security situation in Europe.”

Republicans and Democrats also reacted negatively. Republican Senator John Barrasso told a session of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “The president is giving Russia a new geopolitical weapon.”

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Although Germany has committed to spending $245 million on new energy development in Ukraine, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen questioned its importance.

Shaheen, who sponsored the Nord Stream 2 sanctions law, said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear through his rhetoric and actions that he will avoid any conditions put forward by the West to advance the Kremlin agenda.”

But President Joe Biden’s administration, which is looking to mend relations with Germany that were damaged under former President Donald Trump, says the pipeline has gone too far to be dumped now.

Merkel said Germany now had “a lot of homework” while hoping to broker an extension to an existing deal for the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine that pays billions of dollars in transit costs to Kyiv but will expire in 2024. Germany also wants to reverse the flow from Europe’s gas supply system to Ukraine. . [my/jm]

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