German envoy signals pipeline may be targeted if Russia invades

Nord Stream 2 Source: Nord Stream

Germany’s top diplomat signalled that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government may take action on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should Russia invade Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, at the start of a trip to Ukraine and Russia in Germany’s latest effort to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict, reiterated that the Gazprom PJSC-owned link under the Baltic Sea carries “geo-strategic implications.”

“We will undertake corresponding measures with our partners should there be a further escalation on behalf of Russia,” Baerbock told reporters in Kyiv on Monday after talks with her Ukraine counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba. The envoy from Germany’s Greens party made the stop en route to Moscow, where she’ll meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

The comments tying the pipeline to potential retaliatory measures are an indication that Germany may overcome divisions within Scholz’s new ruling coalition and target the almost-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The U.S. has exerted pressure on Berlin to commit to halting the project if Russia invades.

Scholz’s Social Democrats have largely embraced the pipeline as a crucial energy resource, and the chancellor has reiterated the party line that it’s a commercial venture.

While he hasn’t ruled out including it in any new sanctions on Russia, his stance represents something of a departure from his conservative predecessor, Angela Merkel, who acknowledged its “geopolitical dimension.”

Baerbock’s Greens, the second-biggest party in the three-way ruling alliance, vehemently oppose the project on both environmental and political grounds.

The venture – which includes German and other European investors – is currently in limbo after Germany’s network regulator said it won’t be approved to begin operations before July due to bureaucracy issues.

The 1,230-kilometre (764-mile) pipeline – which cost some 9.5 billion euros ($10.8 billion) – would double the capacity of the existing undersea route from Russian gas fields to Europe which opened in 2011.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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