US, Germany seal deal on contentious Russian gas pipeline

WASHINGTON – The United States and Germany announced an agreement on Wednesday that allows the completion of a controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe without further US sanctions.

WASHINGTON – The United States and Germany announced an agreement on Wednesday that allows the completion of a controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe without further US sanctions. The deal aims to allay fears about Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, but was immediately attacked by critics who said it didn’t go far enough.

As part of the agreement, the US and Germany pledged to oppose any Russian attempt to use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a political weapon. And they agreed to support Ukraine and Poland, both of whom the project is bypassing and who fear Russia’s intentions, by funding alternative energy and development projects.

“The United States and Germany are united in their determination to hold Russia accountable for its aggression and malicious activities by imposing costs through sanctions and other instruments,” they said in a joint statement, the Nord Stream 2 as well as Russia Support for separatists covered in Ukraine.

“Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany will take action at the national level and urge effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russian export capacities to Europe in the energy sector.” “it said.

The Nord Stream 2 project posed a major foreign policy dilemma for the Biden government. US officials from both parties have long feared that it would give Russia too much power over European gas supplies. But the pipeline is almost ready and the US is determined to rebuild ties with Germany that were damaged during the Trump administration.

Poland and Ukraine expressed their displeasure with the decision to allow the pipeline to be completed, saying efforts to reduce Russia’s security threat are insufficient.

“This decision created a political, military and energetic threat to Ukraine and Central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilize the security situation in Europe and perpetuate divisions between the member states of NATO and the European Union,” said the Polish and Ukrainian foreign ministers in a joint statement.

The deal is neither a clear political victory for President Joe Biden nor for Chancellor Angela Merkel, a blatant supporter of the pipeline who will step down later this year. For Biden, he risks appearing weak on Russia, and Merkel’s ruling party faces a serious challenge from the Greens, who oppose the pipeline, in September’s elections.

Nevertheless, both sides have committed to support a $ 1 billion fund for Ukraine to diversify its energy sources, from which Germany will initially provide a grant of $ 175 million. And Germany guaranteed that by 2024 it will reimburse Ukraine for the gas transit fees it will lose by bypassing Nord Stream 2 until 2024, with a possible extension of 10 years.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Merkel on Wednesday about the possibility of extending an agreement on the transit of Russian gas across Ukraine after 2024.

Based on Poland, Germany also agreed to sign the “Three Seas Initiative”, a program funded by the EU and the US that aims to promote investment, infrastructure development and energy security in the countries bordering the Baltic, Black and Adriatic. The German government will provide up to 1.7 billion US dollars in EU funds for the initiative by 2027, the statement said.

Despite the deal, there is strong bipartisan opposition to the pipeline in Congress, as well as in Ukraine and Poland, and like the Trump administration previously said the Biden administration is opposed to the pipeline. US officials said sanctions would not stop this.

Top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Representative Michael McCaul, said he had no doubt that Russia “will use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a coercive weapon against Ukraine and transatlantic energy security once it is operational . Promises to invest in future Ukrainian energy projects and ambiguous threats of consequences will not change that reality. “

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also protested, calling him “weak,” and several Democrats including Senate Foreign Affairs Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have consistently followed the administration’s approach criticized.

“I am not yet convinced that this agreement – or any bilateral agreement – can provide sufficient reassurances to our European allies and minimize the significant economic and safety implications of completing this pipeline,” Shaheen said in a statement.

Third-tier State Department official, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, categorically denied reports that Ukraine had been warned against publicly complaining about the deal, noting that State Department advisor Derek Chollet was involved in it Year visited both Kiev and Warsaw week to brief them on the deal. She told lawmakers on Wednesday that the deal was the best way to deal with the situation.

In another attempt to appeal to Ukraine, the White House announced that Biden would welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi to Washington on August 30. An invitation for “later this summer” had been announced in June before Biden met Putin in Geneva, but a date had not been set until Wednesday.

“The visit will mark the United States’ unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of continued Russian aggression in Donbas and Crimea, our close cooperation on energy security, and our support for President Zelenskyi’s efforts to fight corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our shared democratic values, ”the White House said.

Biden’s dealings with Ukraine are also a sensitive political issue. Former President Donald Trump’s attempt to pressurize Zelenskyy to dig up dirt on Biden and his son resulted in Trump’s first impeachment. He was later acquitted by the Senate.

Nord Stream 2 has been a subject of intense debate between US and German officials for some time and was a key agenda item at Biden’s meeting with Merkel last week. Like the Trump administration before it, the Biden administration views the pipeline as a threat to European energy security and has imposed sanctions on some of those involved in its construction.

Nuland said the U.S. remains against the pipeline, but said Biden waived sanctions against the German company building the pipeline and its executives as the penalties would have been counterproductive to broader U.S. interests.

You and others have defended the waivers, stating that they can be lifted at any time and that this threat actually gives the US more leverage. Biden government officials have repeatedly said that the pipeline was a foregone conclusion when the president took office. This argument has been ridiculed by opponents of the pipeline.

Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

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