Ukraine and Poland have dismissed assurances that a deal between the United States and Germany to end their dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will prevent Russia using it to exert political leverage and undermine security in eastern Europe.
Washington has long opposed a pipeline that will carry gas directly from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, but US president Joe Biden says it is now impossible to halt a project that is 98 per cent complete, and he has chosen not to impose new sanctions on European and Russian firms involved in the €9.5 billion scheme.
Kiev and capitals along the EU’s eastern flank say the pipeline will allow Moscow to cut energy flows through Ukraine and other eastern European states that have poor relations with the Kremlin, while continuing to supply Germany and other lucrative markets in western Europe.
“This is a bad situation and a bad pipeline, but we need to help protect Ukraine and I feel that we have made some significant steps in that direction,” said Victoria Nuland, US under-secretary of state for political affairs.
Energy as weapon
“Germany has committed in this agreement with us that should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany will take actions at the national level and press for effective measures at the European level, including sanctions to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector,” she added.
The US and Germany said they would back the creation of a $1 billion “green fund” to modernise and clean up Ukraine’s energy sector, and insisted that Russia should continue to export gas via Ukraine after their current contract expires in 2024.
Berlin vowed to use “all available leverage to facilitate an extension of up to 10 years” on that gas transit deal, and pledged to help Ukraine access gas from its western neighbours and join the European electricity grid to reduce its vulnerability to Russian energy moves.
The White House sweetened the announcement by revealing that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy would meet Mr Biden there on August 30th – but Kiev said none of this allayed its fears, seven years after Russia seized Crimea and fomented a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has claimed 14,000 lives.
Ukraine and Poland said in a joint statement that the US-German pact “has created political, military and energy threats for Ukraine and central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilise the security situation in Europe, perpetuating divisions among Nato and European Union member states”.
“Ukraine and Poland will work together with their allies and partners to oppose [Nord Stream 2] until solutions are developed to address the security crisis . . . and to provide support to countries aspiring to membership in western democratic institutions, and to reduce threats to peace and energy security,” the statement said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “Russia has always been and remains a responsible guarantor of energy security”, and noted that Russian president Vladimir Putin “has repeatedly said Russia is ready to discuss extending the gas transit deal via Ukraine beyond 2024”.