As the West rallies to stop a conflict in Europe, U.S. President Joe Biden stated on Monday that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would be suspended if Russia invaded Ukraine, and he emphasised solidarity with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The news: Biden, a long-time opponent of Russia’s decade-old pipeline project to Germany, said Russian soldiers moving into Ukraine would cause a shutdown at a White House press conference with the incoming German leader.
- “If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the … border of Ukraine again, then there will be … no longer a Nord Stream 2. We, we will bring an end to it,” Biden said. Asked how, given the project is in German control, Biden said: “I promise you, we’ll be able to do it.”
- Over the course of his day-long tour, Scholz stated the U.S. and Germany had the same stance on Ukraine, Russia, and sanctions, but he did not openly confirm the Nord Stream 2 plans or mention the pipeline by name.
- The question of whether the U.S. and Germany are on the same page on the $11 billion project has become critical as the two main democracies lead NATO allies in retaliation against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Near the Ukrainian border, Russia has gathered a force of 100,000 troops. It denies that an invasion is in the works. Officials in the United States fear an assault could happen in days or weeks.
- Scholz, who has been under fire at home and abroad for what is perceived as insufficient leadership in the issue, told reporters that if Russia invaded Ukraine, it would pay a very heavy price, and that Germany and the U.S. had the same attitude. “We will be united. We will act together. And we will take all the necessary steps,” Scholz said in English.
What’s going on: Germany uses Russian gas to meet half of its needs even before the pipeline is operational. It has postponed approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline until at least the second half of 2022, but has refused to scrap the nearly finished project.
- Biden and Scholz both stated that negotiation was their preferred method of resolving the Ukraine crisis.
- Biden responded yes when asked if Russia still had an “off ramp” from any conflict.
- Scholz, whose popularity has dropped 17 percentage points in recent weeks as tensions with Moscow have risen, is scheduled to visit Ukraine and Russia next week after meeting with Biden, European Union officials, and Baltic state leaders this week.
- The friendship between Biden and Scholz could be crucial at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron has yet to declare whether he would run in a three-month election and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is mired in a domestic crisis.
- Macron met with Putin on Monday, telling him that he wants to prevent war and develop confidence.
- On Monday evening, Scholz met with senior leaders from both parties, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
What they’re saying: Biden said he had no doubts about Germany’s reliability as a partner and said Scholz had the United States’ complete trust. “There is no doubt about Germany’s partnership with the United States. None,” Biden said.
- Biden and U.S. officials highlighted that Germany, behind the U.S., was the second largest contributor of non-military aid to Kyiv, and that they were jointly considering penalties against Russia.
- Details of the sanctions package are still being worked out, but a U.S. official stated that excluding Russia from the SWIFT financial transaction system is still an option.
- Scholz, according to Steven Sokol, head of the American Council on Germany, needs to clarify Germany’s position on Nord Stream 2 and demonstrate greater “creativity” in terms of assisting Ukraine without bringing in arms.
- “Germany has to understand that if it wants to be more of a player on the world stage and carry more responsibility, then with that comes taking more action,” Sokol said. “In order to be a leader, Germany has to do more.”