German ministers reiterated EU warnings that Russia would face tougher sanctions in the event of military aggression against Ukraine, which they said could also prompt Berlin to rethink its cooperation with Moscow on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The renewed warnings come as Kiev and its Western supporters accuse Russia of amassing around 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine as a possible prelude to an invasion as early as next month.
The European Union has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia for its seizure and illegal annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014, and for Moscow’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine in an ongoing conflict. course that has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.
The bloc urged Russia to defuse and engage in renewed diplomacy on the conflict, threatening new strong sanctions in coordination with Britain and the United States in the event of an attack.
Russia denies planning to launch an offensive and has issued a series of demands regarding Ukraine’s potential NATO membership and alliance activities near its western border.
In an interview published on December 19 while visiting German soldiers deployed in Lithuania, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Russia could not “dictate” regional security to NATO.
Those responsible for any Russian aggression against Ukraine face “personal consequences,” Lambrecht also told German weekly Bild am Sonntag.
“We must exhaust all possibilities of diplomatic and economic sanctions. And all subsequent measures must be agreed with our allies.”
After the capture of Crimea by Russia, NATO reinforced the protection of its eastern flank, deploying joint combat units in the three Baltic states and in Poland as part of an “enhanced forward presence”.
Germany is leading NATO’s multinational combat unit in Lithuania and providing around half of its 1,200 troops.
Also on December 19, German Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck warned that the future of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany could face “serious consequences” if Russia attacks Ukraine.
Nothing can be ruled out if there is a “further violation of the territorial integrity” of Ukraine, Habeck said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Lambrecht and Habeck took up their ministerial functions this month in the new German government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Nord Stream 2 is set to double Russia’s natural gas supply to Germany, but the project has been hampered for years by delays and criticism from eastern German allies in the EU , including Poland.
The United States and Ukraine oppose Nord Stream 2 on the grounds that it would endanger European energy security by increasing the continent’s dependence on Russian gas and depriving Ukraine of gas fees. transit.
Habeck said that from a geopolitical point of view, “the pipeline is a mistake”.
Germany’s new government has already threatened to block the pipeline from commissioning if Russia invades Ukraine.
“In the event of further escalation, this pipeline could not come into operation,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
The pipeline is awaiting approval from German regulators. The Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 AG, which controls the pipeline, must submit documents to restart the certification process. The pipeline would then also have to be approved by the European Commission.
Germany’s energy regulator said on December 16 that no decision on whether or not to allow the pipeline to go into service was expected in the first half of 2022.
Meanwhile, in Washington, lawmakers have not given up on imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG.
The U.S. Senate will pass a bill next month to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG under a Dec. 18 deal between Republican-Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York).
Cruz has agreed to lift the suspension of votes to endorse several of President Joe Biden’s candidates for ambassadorial positions in exchange for guaranteeing a vote on the sanctions bill by January 14.
The deal paved the way for the approval on Dec. 18 of about three dozen ambassadors in Senate votes.
Cruz decided to block votes on the candidates after the Biden administration lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG in May, saying the project was largely built already and the administration was seeking to reestablish ties with the ‘Germany.
The controversial $ 11 billion pipeline was completed in September and Russia has said it is ready to start shipping gas.