Biden Says Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Won’t Go Forward if Russia Invades Ukraine


“If Russia invades, that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will put an end to it,” Mr. Biden said at a joint appearance with Chancellor

Olaf Scholz

of Germany after the leaders met at the White House. “I promise you, we will be able to do it.”

Mr. Scholz said Germany and the U.S. are aligned in their positions regarding Moscow’s potential invasion of Ukraine. In keeping with his past statements, he didn’t cite suspending the pipeline specifically as among the steps his government is ready to take to punish Russia.

“We are acting together. We are absolutely united, and we will not be taking any steps, we will do the same steps, and they will be very, very hard to Russia, and they should understand,” Mr. Scholz said.

The U.S., NATO and Russia are caught in a diplomatic standoff over Moscow’s buildup of troops at the border with Ukraine. WSJ looks at what Russia wants and how Ukraine and its allies are preparing for a potential crisis. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Associated Press

The potential fate of Nord Stream 2 has been closely watched as the U.S. and its allies put together a raft of punishing sanctions and other economic measures to be imposed in the event of a Russian assault on Ukraine.

The meeting between Messrs. Biden and Scholz is part of a round of diplomacy to try to defuse the crisis over Ukraine, on whose borders Russia has amassed military forces.

President

Emmanuel Macron

of France met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia for more than five hours at the Kremlin on Monday and plans to travel to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for talks with President

Volodymyr Zelensky

of Ukraine on Tuesday. Mr. Macron is also coordinating with Mr. Scholz.

Mr. Macron said the Russian leader had given him assurances that he was open to exploring ways to defuse the Ukraine crisis.

“It is our shared responsibility to agree on concrete measures to stabilize the situation,” Mr. Macron said, adding: “President Putin has assured me of his availability to commit to this logic.”

Mr. Putin said Mr. Macron had floated “a number of his ideas, proposals, which it is still too early to talk about. Nevertheless, I consider it quite possible to lay the basis for our further steps.”

The 765-mile-long Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a marquee project for the Kremlin and would boost Russia’s supply of natural gas to Germany. Although completed, the pipeline isn’t operating yet, with German officials saying it is undergoing certification that isn’t likely to be completed until the second half of the year.

The U.S. has opposed the project, with officials warning that it will increase Moscow’s influence over Germany and Europe. The Biden administration, however, waived sanctions on the parent company of the almost-completed pipeline last year out of deference to key ally Germany.

Over the past month, as Mr. Putin’s troop buildup has continued, administration officials said they would block the pipeline project if Russia invaded Ukraine.

The receiving station for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline near Lubmin, Germany, last week. The new pipeline has been completed, but is still undergoing certification.



Photo:

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

“We have made our position very clear, which is that if Russia invades Ukraine in one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” a senior administration official said Sunday.

Ahead of Mr. Scholz’s visit to Washington, U.S. officials urged the chancellor and his staff to specifically address the pipeline and signal that it would be scrapped in order to boost the deterrence efforts by the U.S., its European partners and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The U.S. has attempted to get commitments from other nations to provide liquefied natural gas to Germany and other parts of Europe, including Ukraine, should Russia shut off pipelines and use energy as a weapon. U.S. officials have declined to provide specifics on any agreements.

While Mr. Scholz has repeatedly pledged unity with the U.S. and other Western partners, he has yet to publicly announce that the pipeline would be halted if Russia attacks Ukraine. His aides have privately given such assurances, German and U.S. officials said.

At his appearance with Mr. Biden, Mr. Scholz was repeatedly asked about Nord Stream and Germany’s reliability as a partner to the West. Mr. Scholz called Russia’s moves toward Ukraine “a serious danger to security in Europe” that requires a united response from the West.

“We have made it clear: If there would be a military aggression against Ukraine, then there will be hard, commonly agreed and wide-reaching sanctions. The costs for Russia will be very, very high,” Mr. Scholz said. “I believe this message has been delivered in a way that it has been understood in Russia.”

Mr. Macron’s diplomatic efforts allow him to burnish his credentials as a statesman before he faces re-election in April.

The French public has long expected its leaders—from Gen. Charles de Gaulle to former President

Nicolas Sarkozy

—to act with autonomy on the world stage. France is the European Union’s only major military power with its own nuclear arsenal.

“Mr. Macron needs to bolster his record,” said Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean, an analyst at the Paris-based think tank IFRI.

Mr. Macron is also filling a leadership void in Europe left by the departure of Chancellor

Angela Merkel

of Germany. Her successor, Mr. Scholz, has come under fire at home for his relative absence from the diplomatic scene since the start of the Ukraine crisis while other European leaders have been more visible.

France and Germany share the view that the U.S., the U.K. and some Eastern European states have been too alarmist about the buildup of Russian forces.

France and Germany are eager to demonstrate unity with the U.S. and other NATO allies, but both countries have been historically skeptical of the prospect of Ukraine joining the alliance. Germany was also slower than the U.S. to show support for the protests of 2013 in Kyiv that eventually led to the departure of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych.

What sets Germany apart is its high dependence on Russia for its energy supplies and the economic disruption it would face should Russian gas deliveries be interrupted by a conflict. The country imports well over half its gas from Russia and this dependence is set to rise as it phases out its last nuclear power plants this year and shifts away from coal.

Mr. Scholz has also faced criticism in the U.S. for refusing to send weapons to Ukraine. Chancellery officials have said Mr. Scholz was working behind the scenes to defuse the crisis.

Ahead of the U.S. and German leaders’ meeting in the Oval Office on Monday, Mr. Biden said the two nations were “working in lockstep to further deter Russian aggression in Europe.”

On Monday, Germany said it was sending up to 350 troops to Lithuania as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence on the alliance’s eastern flank. Foreign Minister

Annalena Baerbock

of Germany, who was in Kyiv on Monday, said she plans a trip to the frontline zone in eastern Ukraine and will visit a military hospital that Germany has supplied with medical equipment. She added that Germany is ready to continue backing Ukraine financially.

“We’re ready to pay a high economic price because what’s at stake is the security of Ukraine,” she said.

Some analysts warn that Mr. Macron risks playing into the hands of Mr. Putin with his outreach to Moscow.

In discussing plans to revamp European defense, analysts said, Mr. Macron must be careful not to undercut NATO’s role in the continent’s security.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com, Noemie Bisserbe at noemie.bisserbe@wsj.com and Bojan Pancevski at bojan.pancevski@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



Read More: Biden Says Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Won’t Go Forward if Russia Invades Ukraine

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments