US urges Ukraine to remain silent on Russian pipeline
US officials have indicated that publicly opposing the upcoming deal could harm Washington-Kiev bilateral ties, the sources said. Officials also urged Ukrainians not to discuss potential US and German plans with Congress. A senior administration official disputed the information, noting that the situation is more nuanced than that, but declined to share more details about the talks US officials have with their Ukrainian counterparts.
U.S. negotiators and diplomats have signaled that they have given up on blocking the completion of the pipeline, known as Nord Stream 2, which will carry cheap natural gas from Russia to Germany and be a boon to Moscow.
In the meantime, they have tried to appease a key regional partner in Ukraine – which stands to lose most of the pipeline’s final completion – and rebuild the United States’ shabby relationship with Germany, which backs the pipeline. President Joe Biden and Merkel failed to come to an agreement on how to handle the case when he visited Washington last week, Reuters reported. Biden said after meeting her that “good friends can disagree.”
In ongoing talks with Germany, US officials are trying to limit the risks the pipeline will present to Ukraine and European energy security, the official told POLITICO. US and German officials are in talks on the pipeline and its impact on Ukraine, the official added. They are looking for ways to reduce the damage done to the young democracy.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the completion of the pipeline was a done deal. The senior administration official said the United States has concluded that the sanctions could not block the completion of the pipeline.
The administration’s position is at odds with much of Congress and with the Ukrainian government and other Eastern European allies, who have long argued that US intervention may still block completion of the pipeline. , which is almost finished.
All four people familiar with the situation, including a Congressional source with first-hand knowledge, described the dynamics on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. Details began to circulate around Capitol Hill on Monday evening.
Pressure from US officials on Ukrainian officials to refuse to criticize any final deal made by the Americans and the Germans will meet with significant resistance.
A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kiev’s position is that US sanctions could still prevent the project from being completed, if only the Biden administration was willing to use them at the construction and certification stages. . This person said that Kiev remains fiercely opposed to the project.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration gave Zelensky a date for a White House meeting with the president later this summer, according to a senior administration official.
Critics of the future US-German gas pipeline pact say it will primarily serve Russia’s interests and damage relations between Washington and Kiev.
“It is unbalanced and unfair that Russia receives a huge reward and that Ukraine is whipped up by the critics,” said Alina Polyakova, CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. “It’s 100% true that if Trump did that,” everyone would go crazy, she added.
The United States imposed sanctions on the pipeline during the Trump administration which blocked the project. The German finance minister tried to strike a deal with the Trump administration that would have funded the import of US liquefied natural gas into Europe in return for the suspension of sanctions on the pipeline, according to Environmental Action Germany, as reported. RFE / RL. But Trump did not agree to the deal, and there were disagreements within the administration over the scope of the sanctions, prompting Congress to strengthen the U.S. sanctions regime.
Republicans and Democrats in Washington have long opposed the pipeline, which would connect Russia to Germany and dramatically increase Western Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.
“This doubles the imports of gaseous energy from Russia rather than investing in the diversification of energy sources – green energy in particular,” Polyakova said. “As long as you get cheap Russian gas, why invest in other sources of energy? “
The new gas pipeline would also be a blow to the Ukrainian economy, as Russia pays billions of dollars in transit fees on gas that crosses Ukraine on its way to Europe.
Opponents of Nord Stream 2 say it would also reduce Ukraine’s influence in peace talks with Russia, whose forays into eastern Ukraine have drawn international condemnation.
Congress last year approved a list of mandatory sanctions aimed at crippling the pipeline, amid bipartisan concerns over its completion. The Biden administration earlier this year refused to fully impose those sanctions as it struggles to rebuild US-German relations, which suffered under Donald Trump. In the meantime, however, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has retained key State Department candidates to pressure the administration to impose the sanctions.
Completing the pipeline has long been a priority for Berlin, which sees relatively cheap Russian natural gas as a way to wean itself off from dirtier coal. Biden, meanwhile, called the pipeline a “bad deal for Europe” and maintained that the United States did not want to see it completed.
Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill were particularly frustrated with his position on the pipeline, prompting his administration to impose mandatory penalties on pipe-laying vessels and other entities involved. This includes Nord Stream 2 AG, the company that led the construction of the pipeline.
Blinken adviser Derek Chollet is visiting Kiev this week to seek Ukrainian support. It also stops in Poland – where the United States recently signed a multibillion-dollar energy security deal – in an attempt to quell criticism from elsewhere in the region. The Polish government has called the pipeline a threat to regional energy security, as reported by Reuters.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been disrupting US-German relations for years. Nearly complete, the 764-mile-long pipeline under the Baltic Sea is seen in Berlin as key to its energy security and in Moscow as a way to expand its influence in Europe while also filling its coffers. Some, like former senior Pentagon official for Ukrainian policy Evelyn Farkas, have said she would “have preferred” if the Biden administration “waited until after the elections in Germany” before making the deal.
Merkel, who was in Washington last week, will step down later this year.
Many in Washington continue to oppose the pipeline, fearing it will primarily benefit Russia, and Democrats and Republicans have urged the Biden administration to block the completion of Nord Stream 2.
This led to friction. In May, the administration lifted congressional sanctions on the pipeline because it argued that such measures would harm US-German relations, which earned Biden and his team a strong rebuke from the part of political allies normally friends.
“The administration said the pipeline is a bad idea and that it is a project of malicious Russian influence,” said then-Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I share this feeling, but I don’t see how [the waiver] This move will advance American efforts to counter Russian aggression in Europe.
Meanwhile, Ukraine fears that a completed Nord Stream 2 will downplay its role as a transit country for energy from Russia to Europe. German officials, for their part, tried in vain to reassure Kiev.
“For us Ukraine is and will remain a transit country even after Nord Stream 2 is finished,” Merkel said last week at a press conference alongside Zelensky in Berlin. “There are great concerns about this on the Ukrainian side and we take them seriously.”, She continued, adding that “the European Union and Germany will ensure that this continues at the future beyond 2024 “.
Farkas, the former DoD official, questioned whether haggling the pipeline with allies and partners was really the best use of the administration’s time. “This is the craziest deal to be discussed at the moment,” she told POLITICO. “There is no greater crisis than global climate change, so facing this kind of backward deal makes no sense.”
America Hernandez in Brussels contributed to this report.