Axios on Sunday has revealed that Germany has been quietly urging the United States not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, even as geopolitical tensions between Europe and Russia have been on edge over the past month given recent allegations the Kremlin is building up troops near Ukraine for a possible near-future offensive.
The report details documents obtained by Axios wherein Congressional members are warned that fresh Biden admin sanctions would "ultimately damage transatlantic unity" and leave Washington's credibility weakened.
What's being dubbed the "non-paper" sent on November 19 argues that in actuality the Russia-to-Germany major natural gas pipeline does not harm Ukraine, and that proper steps have been taken to ensure it's not a real threat to Kiev, particularly invoking the Joint Statement of the United States and Germany on Support for Ukraine and European Energy Security between Joe Biden and Angela Merkel. The statement puts in place guardrails to ensure Russia doesn't use "energy as a weapon" and vows action if it does so.
The newly revealed document addressed to US lawmakers was marked "classified" and says, "US Sanctions targeting Nord Stream 2 would undermine the commitment given to Germany in the Joint Statement, weaken the credibility of the US government, and endanger the achievements of the Joint Statement, including the provisions supporting Ukraine."
It spells out that US fears have been properly addressed, saying further according to Axios that guardrails include...
..."strong public messages" condemning Russia's behavior; "assessing" the suspension of future political meetings; and reviewing "possible" restrictions on future Russian fossil fuel projects — not including Nord Stream 2.
But it fundamentally argues that "the granting of the certification [to Nord Stream 2] will not put at risk the security of gas supply in Germany and the EU", while referencing the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and independent regulator's assessment.
For years going back into the Trump administration, the White House has consistently argued that its anti-NS2 stance is based on the fear that Putin is using the pipeline as a punitive action and weapon especially against Ukraine, cutting it out of crucial transit fees, and eventually seeking to bypass the Eastern European country altogether as a key energy transit hub. Thus it's little wonder why the "non-paper" remained out of public eye and "classified" until now. The main US argument for blocking the line has rested on assuming that Putin wants to hold Europe's energy independence hostage.
The document underscores that "Russia is currently fulfilling all delivery obligations, including the gas transit agreement with Ukraine, but it could do more: Recent announcements by Putin to increase deliveries to European gas storages are a step in the right direction."
Previously other efforts were revealed...
The German government offered the Trump administration up to €1 billion ($1.21 billion) in a bid to prevent Washington from imposing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, according to documents published by the non-profit Environmental Action Germany.https://t.co/SVkCZVJqJ4— DW News (@dwnews) February 10, 2021
The "classified" document addresses this head on, spelling out that "no threat to Ukraine as long as reasonable gas transit is ensured," will be presented. It additionally argues that any new US sanctions on Nord Stream 2 would in the end be "a victory for Putin" because it would inevitably divide Western allies (also given even top German politicians are divided on the issue).
A week-and-a-half ago gas prices in Europe soared upon news that German regulators' certification for NS2 - which is the final big hurdle before it can come online and begin natural gas delivery to Europe - has been suspended. But the suspension could be short-lived given the fast approaching winter and frigid temperatures, meaning EU countries are hungry to quickly tap more gas.