Workers are seen at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline near the city of Kingisepp in the Leningrad region, Russia, June 5, 2019.
Anton Vaganov | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is expected to discuss a controversial Russian pipeline with 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 head of state 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 head Germany, has already announced that she will resign after the parliamentary elections in September.
A senior Biden government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. agenda for Merkel’s visit, said the president would reiterate concerns about the completion of the $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline .
The unease about the gas pipeline stems from Moscow’s history of using the energy sector to put pressure on Russia’s neighbors.
When completed, the underwater 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 there were only 62 miles to build from Nord Stream 2.
The route of a planned new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe.
In May, the US lifted sanctions against the Swiss Nord Stream 2 AG, which operates the pipeline project, and its German CEO. The waiver gives Berlin and Washington three more months to reach an agreement on Nord Stream 2.
“We believe the sanctions lifts announced in May have given us diplomatic leeway to work with Germany to hold these talks and find ways to address the negative effects of the pipeline,” said a senior administration official.
When asked about a timetable for resolving the Nord Stream 2 problem, the official said the White House was not expecting “any formal announcement or performance from the meetings of leaders.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.
CHRISTOF STACHE | AFP | Getty Images
“It was clear from day one that this would be a dividing factor in transatlantic relations,” said a German MP who declined to be mentioned in order to openly discuss the issue.
“I consider Nord Stream 2 to be a weapon that may be used against Ukraine because Gazprom and Gazprom once it is completed [Russian President Vladimir] Putin does not have to transport gas through Ukraine, which frees them to destabilize the whole country, “said the member of the Bundestag.
“I have always seen this as a major foreign policy mistake against Russia,” the person said, adding that Moscow was rewarded with a major economic project almost a year after the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine sparked international outrage and sparked a series of sanctions against Moscow. Shortly after the annexation, 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, which included the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany and Japan.
“We must not make the damage greater than what was done to us by the unfolding of this project,” said German lawmakers, adding that the United States and Germany should find ways to stabilize Ukraine more.