Germany threatens to sanction Russian gas pipeline
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, built to deliver gas to Germany from Siberia, could be hit with harsh sanctions from Berlin if Russia decides to attack Ukraine, its Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has warned.
Speaking at a session of the Bundestag, the German parliament, on Wednesday, Baerbock confirmed that the underwater energy link was on the table as a possible target for restrictive measures. “We have a whole spectrum of responses, including Nord Stream 2,” she stated. “Yes, we are always attempting dialogue, but in the light of today’s situation, we must be hard.”
The diplomat cited reports that more than 100,000 Russian troops have amassed on the border with Ukraine, and Moscow’s forces are moving into Belarus, as part of plans to stage large-scale joint military exercises.
Washington and Kiev have pushed for the pipeline, which is fully built but not yet operating, to be used as political leverage to deter Russia from aggression in Ukraine, and the US has imposed sanctions on Nord Stream 2 in the past. Some German leaders, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have previously said that the project should be kept out of the conflict with Russia and not be politicized.
Last week, however, Scholz was asked about the possibility of including Nord Stream 2 in sanctions, and refused to rule out the scenario. On Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”
In an op-ed published in German tabloid Bild on Sunday, Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko accused Berlin of betraying Ukraine by continuing to support Nord Stream 2, and refusing to send weapons “in a dramatic situation where our country is threatened by Russian troops from several borders.”
American and Ukrainian leaders have been warning for months that they fear Russia could be planning an imminent invasion of its neighbor, and have pointed to reports of Russian troop movements near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has denied that it has any aggressive intentions, saying it is simply moving soldiers within its own territory, and has called for written guarantees that NATO will not expand into Ukraine, a deal American negotiators have said is off the table.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed disappointment concerning Washington’s response to Moscow’s recent security proposals, saying that it had refused to make concessions concerning the expansion of the US-led military bloc in eastern Europe. “The main issue is our clear position on the unacceptability of further NATO expansion to the East and the deployment of highly-destructive weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation,” the diplomat explained.