Blinken: Nord Stream 2 pipeline is 'leverage' for Europe against Russia

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Russia-Ukraine talks yield agreement to meet again in two weeks Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE on Wednesday said the Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 pipeline meant to bring gas to Germany provides Europe with “leverage” against Moscow’s military provocations. 

The secretary made his remarks standing alongside German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, following a bilateral meeting where Russian threats on Ukraine’s border were at the top of the agenda.

“This pipeline does not have gas flowing through it at present and if Russia renews its aggression toward Ukraine, it would certainly be difficult to see gas flowing through it in the future,” Blinken said. “So some may see Nord Stream Two as leverage that Russia can use against Europe. In fact, it's leverage for Europe to use against Russia.”

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The U.S. has long opposed the construction and operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saying Russia’s control of gas delivery directly to Europe threatens Ukraine’s position as a transit hub for gas delivery while also providing Moscow key control over critical resources. 

Germany views the pipeline as an opportunity to diversify gas imports to Europe, but came to an agreement with the Biden administration in July that Berlin would impose costs on Russia if it weaponized Nord Stream 2, or committed aggressive acts against Ukraine.

That reality has become more prescient as Russia has amassed nearly 100,000 troops on Ukraine's border, with the U.S. warning that Moscow has prepared itself to launch an invasion.

Blinken and Baerbock said they both reaffirmed commitments to the July agreement in their bilateral meeting. 

“I want to reiterate that in my meeting, I aligned [with] the Joint Declaration with the U.S. government, where both countries agreed that there should be effective measures should Russia weaponize energy,” Baerbock said. The official assumed her position in December with the election of a new German government.

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The agreement that was reached in July followed President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE waiving sanctions on the pipeline’s project company Nord Stream 2 AG, a subsidiary of the Russian-owned company Gazprom.

Germany is unlikely to certify the pipeline for operation in the first half of the year, according to the head of the federal authority for gas and infrastructure, Reuters reported, citing regulation requirements not yet met.  

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress opposed Biden’s waiving of the sanctions. A vote on new legislation that would sanction Nord Stream 2 AG — effectively overriding the president’s waiver — is expected to be brought to the Senate floor next week. 

Lawmakers view the pipeline as an extension of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia Don't let Putin close his new Iron Curtain Briefing in brief: Biden committed to naming Black woman to Supreme Court MORE’s efforts to sow chaos, cause instability and carry out aggression against Western countries, and in particular threaten Ukraine's efforts to more closely align itself with Western democracies.

The Biden administration has planned for at least three diplomatic summits next week with Russia and other partners in an effort to address and tamp down the tension on Ukraine’s border.