The United States and Germany have reached an agreement to resolve their long-running dispute over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, including a promise by Berlin to impose sanctions on Russia if Moscow threatens the energy security of its neighbors.
The announcement comes after a bilateral meeting last week at the White House between Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and will ease a diplomatic row between the two sides over Europe’s energy supply.
The construction of the Nord Stream pipeline, which will pump gas from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea, has long been a bad point between Washington and Berlin. U.S. officials believe Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical plan to keep Europe dependent on Russian energy while endangering the security of Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland and Ukraine.
Under the agreement unveiled Wednesday, Berlin pledges to impose sanctions on Moscow if its energy policies endanger Washington’s regional allies, which could include measures to limit Russia’s energy export capacity in Europe, he said. a United States officer.
Part of the agreement includes new funding from Germany aimed at accelerating Ukraine’s green energy transition and securing its energy infrastructure.
A U.S. official has said Berlin will set up a billion-dollar fund to promote Ukraine’s transition to clean energy, starting with an initial $ 175 million, while the United States will help promote and sustain investments. Berlin is providing another $ 70 million to improve the security of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including the construction of its cyber capacity.
A Germany has also appointed a special envoy to help Kyiv negotiate an extension of its gas transit agreements with Russia beyond 2024 to allow Ukraine to continue to earn gas transit rights “for longer possible, ”a senior U.S. official said.
“We are committed to working together with our allies and partners to impose significant costs on Russia, including in the areas of sanctions and energy flows, if it engages in these malicious activities,” the official said.
While the United States and Germany issued a joint statement announcing their agreement, Ukrainian officials reacted furiously. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the country will begin consultations with the EU and Germany on the legality of the pipeline: “Notes to Brussels and Berlin have already been sent,” Kuleba added.
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that “discussions regarding the Nord Stream 2 project as a security threat to Ukraine and the region will continue” during a visit on August 30. from the Ukrainian leader to the White House, which the Biden administration announced a few hours before the pipeline agreement.
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, spoke earlier Wednesday in Kiev with Derek Chollet, an adviser to the US State Department. “Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical weapon of Russia, which will surely be used against Ukraine and Europe,” Yermak said in a statement.
In a call with Merkel on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Germany’s “consistent dedication” to Nord Stream 2, which it said was “only commercial and aimed at ensuring Germany and the country’s energy security.” EU “, according to a reading of the Kremlin. Leaders have discussed extending the commitment of Russian group Gazprom to transfer gas to Ukraine after the expiration of the current agreement in 2024, he added.
Biden’s move earlier this year to impose sanctions on Russians connected to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – while renouncing punitive measures against European pipeline operators – opened the door to termination. of negotiations.
Biden said he did not agree with Merkel on the merits of the pipeline, but her administration has to accept that it was almost complete when he took office in January.
On Wednesday a State Department spokesman Ned Price said Biden had told “very clearly” to Merkel last week that the United States had continued to oppose Nord Stream 2.
“We continue to see it as a geopolitical project of the Kremlin that aims to expand Russia’s influence on Europe’s energy resources. We continue to believe that it is a bad thing for Germany, it is a bad deal for Ukraine, it’s a bad deal for Europe and Europe’s broadest energy security goals, ”Price told reporters.
“Certainly, we think there is more that the previous administration could have done,” said a State department official. “But, you know, we do our best with a bad hand.”
More information from Max Seddon in Moscow