The United States and Germany pledged on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin uses the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a weapon against Ukraine.
The warnings came just hours after the US and Germany reached an agreement to allow the completion of a pipeline that will transport natural gas from Russia to Germany – a move that US lawmakers and European countries have questioned.
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US and German officials not only promised to impose their own sanctions on Russia to limit natural gas exports if the Kremlin misuses the pipeline, but said they would call on other allied countries to do the same.
“This commitment is to ensure that Russia will not misuse any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2, to achieve aggressive political ends by using energy as a weapon,” the US and Germany said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
Senior foreign ministry officials said German Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed future chancellors to the agreement to hold Russia accountable after she leaves office later this year, though they won’t go into detail on how.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline will allow Russia to double the amount of natural gas it exports to Germany.
While supporters of the pipeline claim it will increase energy security in Europe, others have said it could harm Ukraine.
Ukraine currently receives one third of all Russian natural gas exports in Europe.
But opponents of the pipeline fear that Russia could use its newfound export capacity with Germany as a way to deprive Ukraine of needed natural gas imports — a move they have used before amid heightened geopolitical strife.
In an effort to further support Ukraine’s energy security, Germany has committed under the agreement with the US to establish a $1 billion “Green Fund” to help Kiev achieve energy independence.
The fund will rely on German contributions and investments from third parties.
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An initial deposit of $175 million will be contributed by Germany for renewable energy, hydrogen development, accelerating the country’s transition from coal and making the move to carbon neutrality.
The US plans to assist Ukraine by providing “technical assistance and policy support consistent with the fund’s objectives”.
State Department officials on Wednesday argued that the White House — which faced severe backlash from the GOP for lifting Russia’s sanctions on the pipeline earlier this year — “made the best of a bad hand.”
The officials noted that even with US-imposed sanctions on the Kremlin, Russia continued construction and the pipeline was 90 percent complete by the time President Biden took office.
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Germany is also preparing to launch the “Ukraine Resilience Package” to support energy security in an effort to protect Ukraine from “possible future attempts by Russia to cut gas supplies”.
The US and Germany said they also remain committed to improving infrastructure and energy security in Central and Eastern Europe.
Biden will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on August 30.
Edward Lawrence contributed to this report.