Russia’s pipeline is fueling a split in the German coalition as tensions in Ukraine rise

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Nord Stream 2, a Russian gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea, has already driven a wedge between Germany and the US and sowed discord in Europe. Now, as it is increasingly feared that Russia will attack Ukraine, it has become a bone of contention within the German government itself.

Germany’s coalition partners are divided on the issue pipeline, which his critics say will greatly increase Europe ‘s reliance on Russian natural gas, with the center – left Social Democrats largely supporting it and the Greens against it.

Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who will travel to Kiev on Monday as foreign minister and to Moscow on Tuesday, indicated that Nord Stream 2, which has been completed but yet to be certified, cannot continue if Russia attacks its western neighbor.

The Social Democrats, who have traditionally favored the Entente with Moscow, are more ambivalent, insisting on the importance of Russian gas for German industry. SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to publicly impose sanctions against the project.

The divisions are “weakening Germany and the EU,” said Stefan Meister, an Eastern European expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). “We see that the German government does not have a consolidated position and that it is. . . he is still looking for Russian politics, ”he said.

The split was highlighted again this week when two senior SPD politicians did their best to try to shield North Stream 2 from the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said the pipeline “should not be drawn into this conflict”. And Kevin Kühnert, the SPD’s secretary general, said international disputes were deliberately encouraged “to bury projects that have always been a thorn in the side of some” – an obvious dig in the Greens.

The contrast with the rhetoric coming from Baerbock could not be clearer.

She repeatedly mentioned the agreement between the US and Germany in July last year, which said Berlin would impose energy sanctions on Moscow “if Russia tries to use energy as a weapon or commits further aggressive acts against Ukraine”.

Some have suggested that Moscow is already arming its gas exports. That was said last week by Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency Russia has restricted gas supplies to Europe at a time of “intensified geopolitical tensions”. He said it retains at least one-third of the gas it could send to Europe, while depleting the continent’s controlled warehouses to boost the impression of limited supplies. Russia has repeatedly denied any manipulation of stockpiles.

At least both the Greens and the SPD agreed on one thing – yes negotiations held last week between Russia and the West were necessary to try to prevent war. The United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have been holding talks with Russian officials in recent days in a bid to dissuade Moscow from escalating the conflict with Ukraine.

But the Russian response was repulsive, with officials describing the talks as “dead end”. Meanwhile, some of the roughly 100,000 Russian troops deployed near the country’s border with Ukraine conducted shooting exercises last week, and Kiev said on Friday that it was a goal “mass cyber attack” which disabled about 70 government websites.

The misunderstanding between Russia and Ukraine is the first major crisis Scholz, a pragmatist who says he wants to emulate Angela Merkel’s cautious, mediocre policy, has faced as chancellor.

He was ultra-cautious in his public statements, stressing the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict and warning of any attempt to forcibly change Europe’s borders.

But he also firmly resisted pressure from some in the administration of US President Joe Biden to explicitly state that NS2, awaiting approval from the German regulator and the European Commission, will be stopped if Russia sends troops to Ukraine.

U.S. officials say Berlin is pushing in the right direction. Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state, said last week that the German government had taken “significant steps” to “slow down their consideration of the pipeline’s implementation”.

But at least in public, Scholz scrupulously avoided threatening sanctions against NS2, insisting it was a “private sector initiative” that had nothing to do with the Ukrainian crisis.

This marks a subtle but important shift from the line adopted by Merkel, which recognized in 2018 that NS2 “is not just an economic project” and that political factors must also be taken into account – not just the need to preserve Ukraine’s status as a transit country. Russian gas.

However, not all Social Democrats agree with Scholz’s cautious approach. Michael Roth, a former deputy foreign minister who is now head of the Bundestag’s influential foreign affairs committee, said on Friday that Germany should send a clear signal to Moscow that it will deny NS2 approval in the event of aggression against Ukraine.

Putin has always threatened to shut down the electric faucet, he said. “But you can’t blackmail us,” he told Der Spiegel. “If Russia continues its military escalation towards Ukraine, all options should be on the table.”

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