The State Department detailed an agreement Wednesday between the U.S. and Germany allowing the completion of a controversial Russian natural-gas pipeline, giving Germany and Russia a long-sought victory on energy while limiting concessions to the U.S. and Ukraine.
The deal gives Germany access to expanded supplies of energy and allows Russia to double its deliveries of natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing an existing route through Ukraine, which has opposed the pipeline.
The benefits of the deal to the U.S. and Ukraine are less tangible, with U.S. and German officials agreeing to assist Kyiv in energy-related projects and diplomatic initiatives. A U.S. request for a so-called kill-switch clause, enabling Berlin to suspend gas flows in the event of Russian aggression toward its neighbors or Western allies, wasn’t included, officials said.
U.S. officials under two previous presidential administrations opposed Nord Stream 2—seeing it as a way for Moscow to increase its economic and political sway across Europe—and tried to stop the project through international pressure and sanctions.
President Biden, seeking closer ties with Europe and with Berlin in particular, took a different approach. While still opposing the pipeline, his administration said it was too far along to prevent its completion.
Despite allowing the completion of a pipeline the U.S. has long opposed, the agreement achieves a cornerstone goal for Mr. Biden, who wants to use close relations with European countries to marshal their support for U.S. efforts to counter Russia and China. The deal was hailed by Germany after its formal announcement Wednesday.
“It is good that we and the USA once again share mutual goals and convictions including in regarding Russia and energy policy, and that we were able to agree on constructive solutions regarding the issue of Nord Stream 2,” said Heiko Mass, Germany’s foreign minister.
The foreign ministers Ukraine and Poland reacted bitterly to the U.S.-German agreement, saying in a joint statement that it created a “political, military and energy threat for Ukraine and Central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilize the security situation in Europe.”
The White House on Wednesday said Ukrainian President
would visit Mr. Biden Aug. 30 in Washington. Officials said Mr. Zelensky’s visit was unrelated to the Nord Stream agreement.
The pipeline deal also drew concern from both Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers.
“The president is giving Russia a new geopolitical weapon,”
Sen. John Barrasso
(R., Wyo.) said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Russian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
As part of the deal, Germany has committed at least $175 million for a green fund for Ukraine, promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, regulatory reform, and a transition from coal energy. Germany will also provide about $70 million to promote Ukraine’s energy security.
The agreement also outlines goals for extending an arrangement under which Russia pays natural-gas transit fees to Ukraine and for preventing Russia from wielding energy as a weapon. But officials didn’t spell out mechanisms for achieving them.
On the gas-transit deal between Ukraine and Russia, Germany agreed to appoint a special envoy to assist Ukraine in negotiating an extension of the arrangement, which expires in 2024. With an operational Nord Stream 2, it is unknown if Russia would be willing to pay for access to a transit corridor it no longer needs.
The U.S.-German agreement also states that if Russia were to use energy as a weapon or commit aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany would act on its own and press for European action, including sanctions, to “limit Russian export capabilities to Europe.”
The agreement doesn’t specify how Germany would act to limit the exports, although a senior State Department official told reporters that Germany has leverage it could exert over Russia.
White House press secretary
told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One that the measures spelled out in the agreement represented a commitment by German and the U.S. “to push back against the Kremlin’s harmful activities.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), a previous sponsor of Nord Stream 2 sanctions legislation, questioned the potential utility of the provisions.
“Putin has made it clear—through his rhetoric and actions—that he will circumvent any conditions placed by the West in order to advance the Kremlin’s agenda,” Ms. Shaheen said.
Critics of the pipeline said the green light for its completion would leave Ukraine vulnerable. But Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told senators Wednesday that “Ukraine would be at considerably more risk,” if not for the agreement.
Write to Brett Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org
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