US President Joe Biden received his counterpart, German leader Olaf Scholz, at the White House on Monday to discuss the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, including the development of a "robust sanctions package" in the event of an invasion to punish Moscow. The two nations want to show unity, but there is one key sticking point: the future of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. This meeting was also aimed at repairing relations with the European country after former president Donald Trump publicly accused Germany of shirking its international obligations.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project envisages transporting Russian natural gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany, which would make the country heavily dependent on Russian energy, making it difficult to impose sanctions for fear of suffering an oil and gas cutoff during the cold winter months. Meanwhile, the American giant has been looking for alternative energy supplies that could be diverted to Europe, from Asia to the Middle East, and to domestic US suppliers, although such an initiative may not be as successful as the American nation proposes.
Germany's new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in an interview with CNN, revealed that there was a gap over the future of the pipeline. For his part, Biden declared that he would not go ahead with the project if Russia invades. "If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops cross the Ukrainian border again, then there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2," Biden said on Monday. "We will put an end to it." Likewise, the American, declined to say how his nation would stop Nord Stream 2, without Germany's help. "I promise you we can do it," he said.
However, Angela Merkel's successor refused to commit to ending the pipeline should the invasion take place. Moreover, he repeated his pledge to remain aligned with the US. "All the steps we will take we will take together," Scholz told Tapper. "As the president said, we are preparing for that. You can understand and you can be absolutely sure that Germany will stand together with all its allies and especially the United States, that we take the same steps. There will be no differences in that situation".
On the same day, too, a meeting between German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was due to take place; it was cancelled due to a scheduling error, although a source close to the Ukrainian government said that the 'meeting did not take place because of Germany's refusal to abandon the Nord Stream 2 project if there is a Russian invasion'. Scholz, in the interview, said he did not know whether the meeting had been changed because of Germany's position on the future of the pipeline. In fact, Baerbock noted that she was still in Ukraine, and met with the Ukrainian foreign minister.
Turning to the Nord Stream 2 controversy, Biden stated that, while he believes the Nord Stream 2 issue should not stand in the way of improving relations between the two nations, he recognises the delicate politics Scholz faces with the future of the pipeline. "Germany is one of our most important allies in the world. There is no doubt about Germany's partnership with the United States. None," the US president said. "Germany is completely reliable. Totally, totally, totally, totally reliable. I have no doubts about Germany whatsoever," he added. Biden, at all times, wants to demonstrate Western unity against Putin's aggression.
The position taken by Scholz has not gone down well with his predecessor in his political party, Gerhard Schroeder, a member of the Nord Stream 2 board. Schroeder was the last Social Democratic Party politician to serve as chancellor and has close ties to the Russian energy industry. "He is not speaking on behalf of the government. He is not working for the government. He is not the government. I am the chancellor now," Scholz said on CNN, responding to Schroeder's remarks. The German people have also criticised Scholz's management, accusing him of being invisible in the face of rising tensions.
Germany's refusal to offer deterrence measures, influenced by energy dependence on Russia, has frustrated some US officials. As a result, Republicans and Democrats, including Joe Biden, have voiced their displeasure. The chancellor will visit Russia and Ukraine later this month to try to defuse tensions.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.