The dispute between the federal government and the USA over the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stalled and is now threatening to escalate completely. US sanctions against Germany are likely.
The dispute between the federal government and the US administration under President Joe Biden over the almost completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline threatens to escalate completely. Germany rejects the US demand for a construction freeze, and according to information from “Spiegel” the federal government is also refusing to negotiate with the Americans about the controversial project.
The US government is unwilling to compromise on the issue; according to “Spiegel” there is hardly any leeway for the US to forego sanctions. “The Germans have to understand how serious the issue is for us,” a Biden adviser told the news magazine. The US President is ready to discuss the sensitive issue with Chancellor Angela Merkel. This makes no sense, “if he only hears in the end: no, no, no”.
Federal government disappointed with Biden
The federal government does not hold out the prospect of any concession on this national question, and Berlin is showing that it is disappointed by the tough course taken by the Biden government. “We expected more from the restart of transatlantic relations,” said Peter Beyer, the federal government’s coordinator for transatlantic relations, “Spiegel”.
Since Biden’s election victory in November, the federal government has been considering how to position itself on Nord Stream 2. Because the resistance against the unpopular predecessor Donald Trump was much easier. And the relief about the new US administration and its multilateral approach is so great that one does not want to burden the cooperation as much as possible.
“We will need gas for a transition period”
But the Berlin coalition and most of the state governments stuck to their support for the billion-dollar and more than 95 percent completed project, which is supposed to bring more Russian gas to Western Europe and in which several European companies are involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasized this again and again after Biden took office. The central argument is that the security of supply for Germany as an industrial location must be secured if coal and nuclear power are phased out at the same time.
“For a transitional period we will need gas that is not extracted in Germany. We have to guarantee Ukraine’s geopolitical interests and secure our energy supply through this private-sector project,” said North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister, CDU boss Armin Laschet, to Reuters.
His colleagues in the east, in Lower Saxony and also in Bavaria think the same way. Both Laschet and Maas also point out that the US itself buys crude oil in Russia – so Washington’s criticism is inconsistent anyway. In addition, one rejects the extra-territorial sanctions of the USA against a project in Europe for reasons of principle.
The search for a “face-saving” solution
Weeks ago in Berlin had already discussed what ways could be for a “face-saving” solution: First, one could seek further assurances to Ukraine that it would not change its status as a transit country for Russian gas to the west with Nord Stream 2 either loses. However, it is pointed out that the EU and Germany have already negotiated a new gas contract between the country and Gazprom.
The chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, had also proposed a possible stop to deliveries from Russia in the event of a crisis. It is also conceivable that Germany, with more commitment in other areas, will prove to be an exemplary transatlantic partner. After all, the government has just announced that it intends to send a frigate to the Indo-Pacific in August that will also sail through the South China Sea. Berlin is also behind the EU sanctions against China because of the action against the Muslim Uighur minority – although this triggered tensions in the German-Chinese relationship and led to counter-sanctions. Both are gestures towards Washington as well.
It is unlikely that the federal government could repeat the proposal made in 2020 to focus more on the expansion of LNG technology in order to also introduce American liquefied gas to appease Washington. In the democratically led new administration, unlike under Trump himself, there are considerable reservations about fracking gas, it is said in government circles.