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Nord Stream 2 won't happen if Russia invades Ukraine: US

January 27, 2022

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US would work with Germany to ensure the gas pipeline does not begin operations if Russia invades Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock confirmed.

The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
Some countries would like to see the Nord Stream 2 pipeline included in sanctions if Russia invades UkraineImage: Maxim Shemetov/REUTERS

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany would not move forward if Russia invades Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR in an interview.

"I want to be very clear: if Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward," he said Wednesday. "I'm not going to get into the specifics. We will work with Germany to ensure it does not move forward." 

On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told parliament that the government was "working on a strong package of sanctions" alongside allies that would include Nord Stream 2.

Is Nord Stream 2 on the sanctions negotiating table?

The US, Germany and other European countries have said Russia would have to pay a heavy economic price if it invades Ukraine. But naming what that price should be — and whether it should include calling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in question — has been a matter of much debate. 

The previous German government, led by Angela Merkel, insisted the pipeline was a purely commercial project. Current Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it a "private sector project." But  Baerbock of the Greens is a known opponent of Nord Stream 2.

Still, in a sign that Scholz's position may be hardening, he said earlier this month that he stood by a German-US deal not to allow Moscow to use the pipeline as a weapon and that when it comes to sanctions, "everything" is on the table.

Germany's refusal to join other NATO members in providing weapons to Ukraine has been criticized by some allies. 

Scholz reiterated his position to stand with NATO allies on Monday. "Should this situation occur, we will jointly act. There would be a high price," he told reporters when asked about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Nord Stream opens German subsidiary 

Nord Stream 2 AG, the consortium that owns the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, announced the creation of a German subsidiary company called Gas for Europe GmbH. The step brings the pipeline one step closer to receiving German regulators' approval to begin operations. 

Germany's Federal Network Agency halted the certification procedure for the pipeline in November, saying that German law requires the transport network operator to be a German company.

Tensions over Ukraine

The pipeline project is designed to double the amount of gas flowing from Russia directly to Germany, bypassing eastern and central European transit countries. Many have criticized the project, especially because it would increase Europe's dependency on gas from Russia.

This comes amid heightened tensions among Russia and the West over security concerns in Ukraine.

Russia had demanded security guarantees that Ukraine would never join NATO and that the alliance stops its eastward expansion — which NATO rejected

"While we are hoping for and working for a good solution — de-escalation — we are also prepared for the worst," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to speak to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in the coming days. 

"I can't be more clear — NATO's door is open, remains open, and that is our commitment," said Blinken about Russia's core demand. 

tg/sms (AFP, Reuters)