Workers are seen at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, near the town of Kingisepp, Leningrad region, Russia, June 5, 2019.
Anton Vaganov | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is expected to discuss a disputed Russian pipeline with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, as the leaders of the world’s largest and fourth-largest economies work to rebuild a frayed transatlantic relationship.
Merkel’s visit, the first by a European leader since Biden took office in January, is likely her last trip to Washington after nearly 16 years at the helm of Europe’s largest economy. Merkel, the first woman to lead Germany, has previously said she will step down after the September national elections.
A senior Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the U.S. agenda for Merkel’s visit, said that the president will reiterate concerns over the completion of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The unease surrounding the gas pipeline stems from Moscow’s history of using the energy sector to gain leverage over Russia’s neighbors.
If completed, the undersea pipeline will stretch 764 miles from Russia to Germany, making it one of the longest offshore gas pipelines in the world. Last month, the Kremlin said that only 62 miles of Nord Stream 2 were left to build.
The route of a proposed new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe.
In May, the United States waived sanctions on the Swiss-based company Nord Stream 2 AG, which is running the pipeline project, and its German chief executive. The waiver gives Berlin and Washington three more months to reach an agreement on Nord Stream 2.
“We believe that the sanctions waivers that we announced in May have given us diplomatic space to be able to work with Germany, to have these conversations, to try and find ways to address the negative impacts of the pipeline,” explained a senior administration official.
When asked for a timeline for resolving the Nord Stream 2 issue, the official said the White House did not anticipate “any sort of formal announcement or deliverable coming out of the leaders’ meetings.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.
CHRISTOF STACHE | AFP | Getty Images
“It was absolutely clear from day one that it would be a dividing factor in the transatlantic relations,” said a German lawmaker, who declined to be named in order to discuss the issue candidly.
“I consider Nord Stream 2 to be a weapon, potentially used against Ukraine because with its completion Gazprom and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin do not need to transport gas across Ukraine which makes them free from to destabilize the entire country,” the member of the German Bundestag said.
“I’ve always seen this as a major foreign policy mistake regarding Russia,” the person said, adding that Moscow was rewarded with a major economic project nearly a year after the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 sparked international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions on Moscow. Shortly after the annexation, a war broke out in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.
Russia was also removed from the group once known as the G-8 nations, which included the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Japan.
“We must not make the damage greater than it has been inflicted upon us by allowing this project to unfold,” the German lawmaker said, adding that the United States and Germany should find ways to greater stabilize Ukraine.