US-German deal on Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline expected soon

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The United States and Germany have reached a deal allowing the completion of a controversial Russian gas pipeline, according to officials in Berlin and Washington, who plan to announce the deal as early as Wednesday, ending years of tension between the two allies. .

The Biden administration will put aside Washington’s long-standing opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as part of a reversal of US policy, ending years of speculation over the fate of the project, which ended. by dominating the forecasts of the European energy sector. Germany, under the deal, will agree to help Ukraine with energy and diplomacy-related projects.

US officials from the two previous presidential administrations have opposed Nord Stream 2, which has been in development since 2012. President Biden, seeking to get closer to Europe and Berlin in particular, has lifted US sanctions against the company. Nord Stream 2 AG gas pipelines and its general manager in May, signaling a change in the position of the United States.

For Russia, the deal means it will be able to double the volume of natural gas exported directly to Germany via the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, while bypassing an existing route through Ukraine.

A person familiar with the talks said the deal is close to being concluded and expected in the coming days. Another person familiar with the talks said the deal could be announced as early as Wednesday.

Under the four-point deal, Germany and the United States would invest $ 50 million in Ukraine’s green technology infrastructure, encompassing renewable energy and related industries. Germany would also support energy talks under the Three Seas Initiative, a Central European diplomatic forum.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met President Biden last week on a farewell visit to the German leader.


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alex edelman / swimming pool / Shutterstock

Berlin and Washington are also reportedly trying to ensure that Ukraine continues to receive about $ 3 billion in annual transit fees that Russia pays under its current deal with Kiev, which runs until 2024. Officials don’t have not explained how to ensure that Russia continues to make the payments.

The United States would also retain the prerogative to impose future pipeline sanctions for actions deemed to represent Russian energy coercion, officials said in Washington.

German officials have said they are rejecting a US request to include a so-called shutdown clause in the pipeline’s operating rules. This would have allowed Berlin to halt gas flows had Russia taken aggressive action towards its Western neighbors or allies. German negotiators argued that such state interference in a private project could be subject to legal challenge.

Berlin has instead agreed not to reject future sanctions against Russia’s energy sector, officials said.

The deal between the Biden administration and Germany has been described by officials in Berlin and Washington and by a congressional official familiar with the matter. Details of the deal began to circulate on Monday evening, following a Reuters report on a possible deal.

Kiev sees the existing gas transmission network in Ukraine and the income it brings in as a drag on Russia, especially after Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and fomented rebellion in the east of the country. in 2014. US supporters of Ukraine opposed any deal allowing the pipeline to be built.

“Any deal that allows for the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is very flawed,” said Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), A leading member of the Senate Banking Committee. Mr. Toomey urged the administration to impose sanctions “to end Moscow’s efforts to militarize gas supplies in Europe.”

One of the goals of the next deal is to promote Ukraine’s energy independence, said one of the people familiar with the talks, adding that the deal ensures that Russia “cannot use the energy. as a coercive tool against Ukraine or any other nation “.

Despite the lifting of US sanctions in May, this person said the US would continue to examine the entities involved in the project and make it clear that “companies risk sanctions if they are involved in Nord Stream 2”.

Derek Chollet, a senior State Department political adviser, is in Kiev this week with a German counterpart to brief Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the details of the deal. Mr Chollet is scheduled for a similar trip to Poland, which has fiercely opposed the pipeline.

The announcement of the deal angered Ukrainian officials, who view their country’s existing pipeline network as a rare leverage point against Russia in the seven-year conflict between the two countries. Last week, Mr. Putin delivered another in a series of polemics questioning Ukrainian sovereignty. Making the existing pipeline redundant could give Russia a freer military hand in Ukrainian territory, Ukraine’s defenders fear.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that Mr Biden told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington last week “that we have lingering concerns about how the project threatens security. energy, compromises the security of Ukraine and the security of our… allies and partners ”.

Ms Psaki said Mr Biden had asked staff members to work jointly with their German counterparts to strike a deal.

Announcement of the deal was delayed to avoid overshadowing Merkel’s farewell visit to the White House, according to officials familiar with the negotiations. Ms Merkel has made the completion of the pipeline, which could take place later this year, a landmark achievement marking the end of her political career, people familiar with her thinking have said.

Write to Bojan Pancevski at [email protected] and Brett Forrest at [email protected]

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