Ukraine and Poland protest Biden’s Nord Stream 2 deal with Germany

  • Jul 22, 2021
  • Washington Examiner

President Joe Biden's plan to mitigate the geopolitical harm done by the Nord Stream 2 pipeline drew condemnation from Poland and Ukraine, as officials in both countries protested their exclusion from U.S. negotiations with Germany about the controversial energy project.

“Unfortunately, the hitherto proposals to cover the resulting security deficit cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by NS2,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in a joint statement Wednesday. “We call on the United States and Germany to adequately address the security crisis in our region, that Russia is the only beneficiary to.”

Biden’s team waived sanctions on the pipeline despite denouncing it as a Kremlin scheme to leverage Europe, especially Kyiv. The new pipeline could give Russian President Vladimir Putin the option of cutting off energy flows through Ukraine without disrupting natural gas supplies to Germany.

U.S. officials justified that acquiescence, arguing the pipeline is too near to completion to be blocked, but that argument has failed to satisfy Russia hawks in Eastern Europe and on Capitol Hill.

“The decision to build Nord Stream 2 made in 2015 mere months after Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, created security, credibility and political crisis in Europe,” said Kuleba and Rau. “Currently, this crisis is significantly deepened by the resignation from attempts to stop the launch of the NS2 gas pipeline.”

BIDEN AND GERMANY VOW TO PROTECT UKRAINE IN ENABLING COMPLETION OF NORD STREAM 2 PIPELINE

Their statement repudiated the deal between the Biden administration and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who agreed to insist Moscow continue paying the transit fees Kyiv collects for allowing Russian gas to flow across Ukrainian territory.

“Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany will take action 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, including gas, and/or in other economically relevant sectors,” the U.S. and German governments said in a joint statement Wednesday.

Ukrainian and Polish officials dismissed that agreement with an implicit complaint they weren’t included in the negotiations between Washington and Berlin, even though their interests are most directly damaged by the new pipeline.

“Each credible attempt to cover the security deficit must take into account its negative consequences in three areas: political, military and energy,” said Rau and Kuleba. “Such an attempt shall also have a democratic dimension, that assumes talks with governments of the countries most affected by the negative effects of NS2 at the stage of reaching an agreement.”

White House officials paired the unveiling of the deal with an announcement Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet Biden in Washington on Aug. 30, so the president can "affirm the United States's unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea, our close cooperation on energy security, and our backing for President Zelensky’s efforts to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our shared democratic values."

Likewise, State Department counselor Derek Chollet arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday "to discuss U.S. support for Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russia’s aggression." He is scheduled to spend the rest of the week with Polish officials in Warsaw.

"We have made clear that threats from Russia to Ukraine are unacceptable, and we are seeking to provide Ukrainians the means to help defend themselves," Chollet told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S.-backed outlet.

Germany will also invest in Ukraine’s green energy sector in a bid to diminish Ukrainian dependence on Russian gas.

“The concessions Biden won are real,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps most important is the plan to integrate Ukraine with the EU electric grid. This will drive Putin CRAZY. It helps break Ukraine of dependence on Russian energy.”

Murphy echoed the Biden administration’s assessment the pipeline’s completion could not be blocked, but Russia hawks in both parties maintain the U.S. could have stopped the construction.

“It was 95% complete in December of 2019 when we passed the sanctions, and we stopped it,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who authored the bill mandating U.S. sanctions on the pipeline project, during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday. “And a 95% complete pipeline is 0%complete. And we saw, for a year, it remained a hunk of metal at the bottom of the ocean until Joe Biden got elected and began signaling he would be soft on Russia.”

Ukrainian officials are taking their dispute with Germany to the European Union by invoking a provision of the EU-Ukraine association agreement that requires both sides to “take into account the energy networks and capacities of the other Party when developing policy documents” and cooperate on energy trade issues.

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“Ukraine is officially initiating consultations with [European Commission] and Germany on NS2, which threatens Ukraine’s security [and] violates the diversification principle of the EU Energy Union,” Kuleba tweeted. “Notes to Brussels and Berlin already sent.”