Germany has suspended the certification of a controversial gas pipeline linking the European power to Russia, according to a senior member of Germany's newly formed government.
"The Federal Network Agency has suspended the certification process due to the existence of clear regulation in European law regarding the energy area on unbundling and other issues of the [company’s] structure," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday in Brussels.
Baerbock called attention to that suspension as she arrived at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats against Ukraine at the top of the agenda. EU officials have threatened to impose crippling sanctions on Russia if Moscow launches an expanded invasion of Ukraine, but they have yet to agree on the details of those punishments, raising the significance of Baerbock’s unilateral warning to Putin.
"In the event of further escalation, this gas pipeline could not come into service,” Baerbock told German media on Sunday.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has argued Biden’s pipeline gambit generated a new lever to influence Putin.
“That pipeline ... doesn’t have any gas flowing through it right now and, in fact, is a source of leverage on Russia, because to the extent President Putin wants to see gas flowing through that pipeline if and when it becomes operational, it’s very unlikely or hard to see that happening if Russia has renewed its aggression on Ukraine, if it takes renewed action,” Blinken said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “So I think President Putin has to factor that in, too, as he’s thinking about what he’s going to do next.”
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been developed, with the support of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in defiance of U.S. sanctions and trans-Atlantic warnings that it would leave Ukraine and NATO members in eastern Europe more vulnerable to Russian aggression. President Joe Biden acquiesced to the completion of the pipeline earlier this year on the theory that rigorous enforcement of U.S. sanctions law would antagonize Berlin without blocking the pipeline.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell affirmed that the Russian threats against Ukraine represent the “most important” issue for the foreign ministers, who hope that sanctions threats will deter a wider conflict.
“We are on the deterring mode, on the dissuasion mode in order to avoid the crisis to start,” Borrell said Monday. “But in any case, we will send a clear signal that any aggression against Ukraine will have a high cost for Russia, if it happens.”
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And yet, the EU foreign policy chief couldn’t forecast any agreement between the assembled diplomats. “We are not going to take any concrete decision today about sanctions,” he said. "We are studying, together with the United States and the United Kingdom, which they [the sanctions] could be, when and how, in a coordinated manner. But do not expect today decisions about it.”