BERLIN — Germany’s new government on Tuesday gave the clearest indication yet that it would discuss halting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Russia attacks Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz offered his strongest warning to date at a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, where he was pressed about whether penalizing Nord Stream 2 was part of the “severe economic costs” Germany has said Russia will face if it invades Ukraine.
“It is clear that there will be a high cost and that all this will have to be discussed if there is a military intervention against Ukraine,” Scholz said.
Scholz said his government “stands by all aspects” of a deal his predecessor Angela Merkel reached with U.S. President Joe Biden last year, under which Germany promised to take action at the national level and press for EU sanctions should Russia “use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine.”
The chancellor’s remarks come as Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border, ramping up fears of looming Russian belligerence. A series of meetings last week between Russia, the U.S. and NATO allies failed to ease the tensions.
“We expect Russia to de-escalate the situation,” Scholz said. “This could include, for example, a reduction of troops on the Ukrainian border.”
He also signaled a willingness to talk to Moscow, saying, “we are of course ready to enter into a serious dialogue with Russia on security issues in Europe.”
Scholz was speaking the same day that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock traveled to Moscow to meet with her counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. In Moscow, Baerbock echoed Scholz’s desire for “serious dialogue,” while also admonishing the Kremlin, urging it to respect “binding” international rules and not threaten its neighbors with military force.
“We have no choice but to defend our common rules, even at a high, sometimes economic price,” she said.
This price could include consequences for Nord Stream 2, she said: “We have reiterated again and again, at different levels of this federal government, that should energy be used as a weapon [by Russia], that would then also have appropriate consequences with regard to this pipeline.”
Speaking alongside Baerbock in Moscow, Lavrov defended the pipeline, describing it as “an important project aimed at securing energy supplies for Germany and the whole of Europe.” It should not be “politicized,” he stressed.