Gas prices: Putin ‘going to keep squeezing’ says expert
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The US President appealed for Nord Stream 2, which will transit gas from Russia into Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine, to be cancelled following reports of a build-up of Russian troops at the Ukraine-Russia border. It comes as Mr Biden spoke with European allies last night following a two-hour virtual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a range of issues, including Moscow’s increasing pressure on Ukraine.
Washington reportedly told Europe that it needs to “step in and do more” to put limit the powers of Mr Putin and use their economic leverage to discourage Moscow from invading.
Moscow has been pushing for the certification of Nord Stream 2 to speed up, and as a result, has been accused of tightening gas supplies travelling into Europe.
German regulators have since suspended the certification of the pipeline, but it appears that the Biden administration believes that more can be done as tension with Ukraine soars.
The new Chancellor due to be sworn in today, Olaf Sholz, has taken a tough line on Russia.
But whether the new Chancellor will tear up the deal signed by his predecessor remains to be seen.
He said on Tuesday that Germany was “very concerned about the troop movements that we are seeing on the Ukrainian border”.
He added: “Therefore, it must be very clear that this would be an unacceptable situation if there were a threat to Ukraine.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that “any further aggressions” from Russia against Ukraine would lead to the EU “scaling up and expanding existing sanctions”.
She added: “We are ready to take additional restrictive measures, in coordination with our partners.”
But Mr Sholz has still advocated support for Nord Stream 2, having said he feels bound to Ms Merkel’s commitments on the pipeline, and echoed her threats that Germany could sanction Russia if it uses gas as a “geopolitical weapon” against Ukraine.
But Mr Putin has already been accused of using gas as a geopolitical weapon after withholding gas supplies to Europe, blocking access to the gas transmission system of Ukraine from other Russian companies and blocking exports from Central Asia that could go to Ukraine via Russia.
Head of Ukraine gas giant Naftogaz, Yuriy Viternko, said: “This is a very clear sign that they are using gas as a geopolitical weapon at the moment.”
German diplomats have reportedly been lobbying members of Congress on the issue, particularly a group of Republican senators who want sanctions imposed on the pipeline.
But Washington has thrown the new Chancellor a curveball with their new demand to have Germany scrap the pipeline completely.
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US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in the White House following the virtual meeting: “We’ve had intensive discussions with both the outgoing and incoming German government on the issue of Nord Stream 2 in the context of a potential invasion.
“It is an object of great priority for the Biden administration.”
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