In the dispute over the German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline, Germany and the USA have reached an agreement. Russia responds with praise. Clear criticism comes from another corner. An overview.
After years of dispute, the USA and Germany have achieved a breakthrough in the conflict over the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Both countries released a joint statement on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) was relieved to have found a constructive solution with the USA. Germany and the USA want to support Ukraine in building a “green energy sector” and work to secure gas transit through Ukraine in the next decade. “As a transatlantic partner, we are firmly on the side of Ukraine,” said Maas.
Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) declared: “In recent years we have always campaigned for Ukraine’s legitimate security interests to be respected.” To this end, he advocates “that the gas transit for Ukraine is extended beyond 2024”. He is “glad that the transatlantic cooperation is intact again”.
The almost completed Baltic Sea pipeline is supposed to bring Russian gas to Germany – bypassing the Ukraine, which is dependent on the income from the gas transit. The USA had massively criticized Nord Stream 2 for years, but now want to forego further sanctions. The statement warns Russia against using energy as a political “weapon” – this is the biggest fear in the US. Here you can read all the information about the new deal.
The German government’s transatlantic coordinator, Peter Beyer, also welcomed the agreement between the USA and Germany. “It is a good day for transatlantic relations, for German-American friendship,” Beyer said on Wednesday evening (local time) in Washington. The CDU politician emphasized that the agreement did not mean that the USA and Germany had abandoned their different attitudes towards the German-Russian pipeline. The declaration addressed the important issues related to the project – especially support for Ukraine. It is therefore also “a good day with good news for Ukraine.”
German business in Russia praises the deal
The German economy in Russia praised the agreement between the US and Germany. “It is a good sign that Washington and Berlin have settled their dispute (…) and that the gas connection, which is extremely important for Europe, can be completed,” said the President of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce (AHK), Rainer Seele. “Especially in difficult times it is important that there are such lighthouse projects between Russia and Europe.”
Top State Department diplomat Victoria Nuland said at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that President Joe Biden’s administration continued to believe that Nord Stream 2 was “a bad deal” that would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia Boost energy. “This is a bad situation and a bad pipeline, but we have to help protect Ukraine and I feel that with this agreement we have taken some important steps in that direction.”
Resistance in the US Congress
In the USA there has been cross-party resistance to Nord Stream 2 for years. The agreement is therefore also met with opposition in Congress. The senior Republican, Michael McCaul, said in a statement that he has no doubt that Moscow will use the pipeline “as a weapon of coercion” against Ukraine and transatlantic energy security once it is operational.
There were also doubts from among Biden’s Democrats. “Germany is an important ally and I applaud the diplomatic efforts of the Biden administration to negotiate a path for Nord Stream 2. But I am not yet convinced that this agreement can sufficiently prevent Putin from using this pipeline as a weapon to to exercise political influence in Europe, “wrote Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Twitter.
Criticism from Poland and Ukraine – praise from Moscow
Clear criticism came from Poland and the Ukraine. In a joint statement by the foreign ministries, both countries warned that this decision had “created a political, military and energy threat to Ukraine and Central Europe”. At the same time, it increases the potential for Russia to further destabilize the security situation in Europe. “Unfortunately, the previous proposals to cover the security deficit cannot be considered sufficient to effectively contain the threats posed by Nord Stream 2,” the statement said.
Praise came from Moscow: “This agreement gives us the opportunity to finish the construction of Nord Stream 2 in peace and to start operations completely,” said Vladimir Jabarow of the Federation Council – the upper house of the Russian parliament – of the Interfax agency. At the same time, he set conditions for a possible extension of the transit agreement through Ukraine: Ukraine should prove itself as a “constructive partner”. Under “normal conditions” nobody would put pressure on Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Ria Novosti state agency that negotiations on a new transit agreement should only be of a purely “commercial character”.
Merkel is on the phone with Putin
According to the government, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday – the topic was Nord Stream 2. Merkel is likely to have explained the breakthrough in the dispute with the United States to Putin.
Biden and Merkel vowed a new start in German-American relations in Washington last Thursday, after difficult years under Biden’s predecessor Trump. Biden said that he had again expressed his concerns about the pipeline to Merkel. Russia should not use this to “blackmail Ukraine in any way”.
After the meeting in Washington, Merkel said that Nord Stream 2 was an additional project and not an alternative to gas transit through Ukraine: “Our understanding was and is and will remain that Ukraine remains a transit country for natural gas.” Merkel made it clear that “active action” will also be taken if Russia does not honor Ukraine’s right to gas transit.