Merkel refuses to back down as Biden explodes over Russia deal – US threatens punishment
Russia: Expert discusses Nord Stream and Navalny
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His criticism raises the prospects of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, could be slapped by US sanctions. Asked about the pipeline, Mr Biden told reporters: “I’ve been opposed to Nord Stream 2 for a long time … that issue is still in play.” Washington has previously threatened imposing financial sanctions on firms involved in the project.
But the current White House administration has been reluctant to mimic former US President Donald Trump, who actually imposed penalties.
The gas pipeline, which runs through the Baltic Sea, is set to double deliveries of natural gas from Russia to Germany.
The project is nearing completion and is intended to carry 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year between the two countries.
Berlin has warned against halting the pipeline’s construction, with foreign minister Heiko Mass suggesting its creation was part of a plan to de-escalate tensions with Moscow.
He said: “I am sceptical that halting the Nord Stream 2 project would lead to a de-escalation by Moscow – in fact it could have the opposite effect.”
And EU insiders say that Mrs Merkel is absolutely intent on overseeing its creation.
One diplomat said: “The only way Germany will give up Nord Stream 2 is if Russian spies break into the Bundestag and crucify Merkel.”
President Biden is under pressure to slap the Nord Stream 2 project with sanctions.
Congress has mandated penalties against the pipeline, but they won’t be included in the White House’s new Russian sanction regime.
The US Justice Department signed off on at least two sanctions packages targeting the project.
They focused on Nord Stream 2 AG, the firm behind its planning, construction and future operation.
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The Biden administration is expected to roll out new sanctions against Russia, including its government and intelligence officials, in response to the rogue state’s SolarWinds espionage campaign.
President Biden has called Nord Stream 2 “a bad deal for Europe” but wants to maintain good links with Berlin.
“We very much want to restore our relationship with Germany after four years of abuse by the previous administration,” a senior administration official told the Politico website.
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“But Congress is not budging. We are between a rock and a hard place.”
US politicians are pressing for the White House to step in before Nord Stream 2 is finished.
Ukraine also wants the project halted amid fears the pipeline will help Russian gas sales by creating an easier route to Europe.
Energy sales to EU states are a key revenue stream for Kiev, which is under constantly military pressure from Moscow.
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