German-U.S. deal on Nordstream 2 pipeline fails to bridge European differences

A kind Bilateral agreement Negotiations between Washington and Berlin on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany ended a long-standing dispute between the two NATO allies over infrastructure projects supported by the Kremlin.

But Wednesday’s agreement was in German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Angela Merkel) Visit the White House Last week, the project failed to bridge Europe’s deep-rooted differences over pipeline issues, nor did it appease critics who believed that this was a geopolitical weapon that the Kremlin would use to weaken Ukraine and increase its influence on the EU’s energy supply.

Nord Stream 2 will start operations later this year and will pump 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas under the Baltic Sea, allowing the Kremlin-controlled natural gas exporter Gazprom to reach Germany and Europe without using pipelines through Ukraine Customers elsewhere.

A splintered project

Since Gazprom’s first application for the construction of the Beixi No. 2 pipeline in 2015 (one year after Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine), Ukraine, Poland and other Eastern European countries have worried Moscow’s influence More than Europe’s energy supply has condemned the project.

They said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will use it to deprive Kiev of up to 2 billion U.S. dollars in annual fees. It will transport Russian natural gas to Europe through Soviet-era pipelines and increase Moscow’s share of European natural gas imports. The Kremlin This can be used as a bargaining chip in geopolitical negotiations.

In 2019, the U.S. passed legislation to impose sanctions on European companies that are building pipelines, which angered Germany and the European Commission, who saw the move as an unprecedented extraterritorial intervention in European energy policy, and Deterioration of bilateral relations Between Berlin and Washington.

Security commitment and cash

Although Joe Biden’s administration has always insisted that the United States oppose North Stream 2, the president has prioritized rebuilding relations with NATO partners such as Germany.

According to the agreement announced a few days after Merkel’s last visit to Washington as prime minister, the United States will Sanctions lifted Oppose the pipeline in exchange for Berlin’s commitment to protect Ukraine and Europe from potential Russian threats.

Specifically, if the Kremlin tries to “use energy as a weapon or take further aggressive actions against Ukraine,” Berlin has pledged to take measures, including restricting Russia’s energy imports.

The agreement also means that Germany will appoint a special envoy to help force Moscow to extend Ukraine’s gas supply agreement for 10 years, which will expire in 2024, and donate US$175 million to Kiev as a 1 billion yuan to accelerate Ukraine’s transformation. Part of the US dollar fund ranges from coal to renewable energy projects. Berlin will also provide 70 million U.S. dollars to improve the security of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

‘Superficial and insufficient’

but Long-time critics Those promises in Berlin were not moved by the project. The foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland stated in a joint statement that these proposals were “superficial and cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threat posed by Beixi 2”.

“We call on the United States and Germany to fully resolve the security crisis in our region. Russia is the only beneficiary,” they said, adding that Kiev and Warsaw will continue to cooperate with their allies against the pipeline.

Slavomir Debski, director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, a state-backed think tank, stated that the agreement will “create a huge security gap in the east wing of NATO, especially Ukraine.”

Debski added that Wednesday’s agreement is the latest example of the failure to “convince Germany that maintaining peace on the east wing of NATO is more valuable than its relationship with Russia under Putin.”

Ukrainian officials stated that they do not support replacing the US sanctions with a theoretical response by Germany to potential actions by Russia. “First of all, Ukraine’s national sovereignty and security issues require specific guarantees and specific implementation mechanisms,” said Yuriy Vitrenko, CEO of the Ukrainian national gas company Naftogaz. “The US sanctions regime implemented today is still the main deterrent to prevent Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.”

Selling “bad deals”

Despite the agreement with Germany, the US State Department stated that it still considers Nord Stream 2 to be “a bad deal” for Europe. An American official described it as “perfect.”

But despite this, Washington and Berlin must now convince other opponents in Kiev, Warsaw, and Beixi that the agreement is the right way forward for Europe and Ukraine.

In her speech on Thursday, Merkel denied that the agreement shows that Ukraine and Poland have lower priority in Berlin than Russia. She said this is not to eliminate differences between Berlin, Washington and other countries, but to provide a way to manage ongoing differences. She stated that Germany is willing to impose sanctions on Russia if necessary, and that “we are not without any tools to do something”, adding that it is important for Germany to always have a dialogue with Russia.

Much will depend on next month’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before meeting Biden at the White House on August 30, and Berlin persuading critics to believe it can defend Capacity of Ukrainian and European interests.

The Kremlin said in a statement that during a call between Merkel and Putin on Wednesday night, the two leaders “discussed the possibility of extending the Ukrainian gas transit agreement beyond 2024.”

But Ukraine and its supporters not only hope that Berlin and Moscow will make comments to allay their concerns about the impact of Beixi-2.

“There is a fundamental problem. This is related to the fact that we still don’t know whether Russia is prepared to fulfill its obligations, and it is related to Ukraine’s security,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said in a television commentary on Thursday.

“The United States and Germany have reached an agreement on certain things. But we all understand that the main benefactor of this crisis is [Nord Stream 2] It is the Russian Federation. He added. “This is the main problem.” .. What more needs to be done. “

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