German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday defended a settlement 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 imposing US sanctions.
She called the agreement announced Wednesday between Berlin and Washington “good for Ukraine” even though the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 line, which is 98% complete, would bypass Ukraine and Poland. Germany and the US said they were committed to stopping any attempt by Moscow to use the new line as a political weapon to control energy supplies to Europe.
Germany and the US agreed to fund alternative energy and development projects in Ukraine and Poland, although both countries expressed their displeasure over the agreement, saying it was not enough to mitigate the threat of Russian energy controls.
“Differences remain. We saw it in yesterday’s reactions,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, acknowledging opposition to the deal in the US Congress.
Ukrainian and Polish foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the German-US agreement posed a “political, military and energy threat to Ukraine and Central Europe, while enhancing Russia’s potential to destabilize the security situation in Europe”. “
Republican and Democratic lawmakers also reacted negatively. “The president is giving Russia a new geopolitical weapon,” Republican Senator John Barrasso told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Even though Germany has committed to spending $245 million in new energy development in Ukraine, Democratic Senator Jean Schain questioned its importance.
Shaheen, who sponsors the Nord Stream 2 sanctions law, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear through his rhetoric and actions that he will bypass any conditions placed by the West to advance the Kremlin agenda Will give.”
But President Joe Biden’s administration, looking to repair ties with Germany, which had been under former President Donald Trump, said construction of the pipeline was too far to give up at this point.
Merkel said Germany has “a whole lot of work” to do now, hoping it can expand an existing deal for the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine that would provide Kiev with billions of dollars in transit fees. But that expires in 2024. Germany also hopes to engineer a “reverse flow” from European gas supply systems to Ukraine.
“We are not completely defenseless” against Russia, the German leader said, ruling out the possibility of new sanctions if Moscow places undue burdens on European energy supplies.
The Kremlin said it has never used energy supplies as a geopolitical weapon.
“Russia has always been a responsible guarantor of energy security on the European continent, or shall I say on a broader, global scale,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Russian natural gas supplies through Ukraine have been hampered in the past by disputes over pricing and payments, raising suspicions of political motivations.
Peskov said Russia was ready to discuss with Ukraine the extension of its gas transit deal beyond 2024.
This report incorporated information from the Associated Press and Reuters.