This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Joe Biden has stressed the importance of implementing a U.S.-German agreement on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline to ensure that Russia “cannot manipulate natural gas flows for harmful political purposes,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden “underscored the importance of continued work to implement the U.S.-Germany Joint Statement on Support for Ukraine and European Energy Security” after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her likely successor, Olaf Scholz, on October 30 in Rome on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20).
The agreement between the U.S. and Germany, announced in July, provides for sanctions to be imposed on Russia if the pipeline is used as a geopolitical “weapon.”
The controversial natural gas pipeline runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. Russia has said it is ready to begin shipping gas through the pipeline, which was completed last month, but German and European regulators must first complete a lengthy approval process.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak said early this month that clearing the pipeline could help ease a supply crunch in Europe. The comments sparked concerns that Russia had failed to boost its production of gas to pressure Europe into granting quick approval for Nord Stream 2.
The United States has warned Europe against bowing to Russian pressure on the approval process. A State Department official said last week that, if Russia has more gas to ship to Europe to ease the shortfalls and high prices, it should do so through existing export pipeline infrastructure, including the ones that transit Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not present at the G20 summit, last week told state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to start pumping natural gas into European gas storage facilities once Russia finishes filling its own stocks, which could happen by November 8.
Washington has long opposed the Nord Stream 2 project, calling it a threat to European energy security because it increases the continent’s reliance on Russian gas and allows Moscow to exert political pressure on its neighbors.
But the Biden administration in May jettisoned the idea of further sanctions, saying Russia would complete it regardless of the economic penalties imposed.
Scholz, a Social Democrat, is currently in negotiations with the Greens and the pro-business FDP to form a coalition government in Berlin. The parties have differing views on the pipeline, with the Greens against it, while the FDP is skeptical.