WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration has reached a preliminary deal with Germany on a controversial Russia-Europe gas pipeline that is vehemently opposed by Ukraine and Poland as well as Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
Congressional advisers briefed on the deal said it would allow the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline without Germany or Russia facing further US sanctions. In return, the United States and Germany will make some concessions to Ukraine and Poland, although it was not immediately clear whether these would be welcome.
Administration officials declined to comment on details of the case pending an announcement that could arrive as early as Wednesday. The State Department said on Monday that a senior diplomat would visit Poland and Ukraine in part this week to discuss Nord Stream 2 in what are expected to be controversial talks.
“I expect the State Department and others to have more on this soon,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
The Nord Stream 2 project posed a major foreign policy dilemma for the Biden administration. U.S. officials on both sides have long feared this would give Russia too much power over European gas supplies, potentially cutting gas off to Russian adversaries Ukraine and Poland. But the pipeline is nearing completion and the United States is determined to reconnect with Germany that was damaged during the Trump administration.
President Joe Biden’s approach to Ukraine is also a sensitive political issue. Former President Donald Trump’s attempt to pressure the Ukrainian president to dig up Biden and his son led to Trump’s first impeachment. He was then acquitted by the Senate.
The announcement of the impending deal comes as Ukraine urges the White House to act on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s invitation to visit Washington. The invitation was extended in principle to “later this summer” before Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva last month.
Although Zelenskyy has said as he expected to meet Biden in July, no date has been announced as the month draws to a close and Ukraine’s public reaction to the Nord Stream deal could end. consequence be mitigated.
Nord Stream 2 has been the subject of intense debate between US and German officials for some time, and it was an important item on the agenda for Biden’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week. Merkel backs the pipeline, and Biden has suggested that punishing Germany for that support would be counterproductive to broader US interests.
But like the Trump administration before it, the Biden administration sees the Nord Stream 2 project as a threat to European energy security and has imposed sanctions on some of those who were involved in its construction.
Yet Biden earlier this year lifted sanctions on the German company building the pipeline and its top executives, angering members of Congress and disappointment in Ukraine and Poland.
Administration officials have defended the waivers, saying they can be rescinded at any time and that the threat actually gives the United States more leverage. This argument was flouted by opponents of the pipeline, although Psaki reiterated the administration’s concerns on Tuesday.
“We are still concerned about how the project threatens European energy security, undermines the security of Ukraine and the security of our eastern flank, of NATO allies and partners,” she said.
Poland, Ukraine and other Central and Eastern European countries bypassed by the pipeline fear Russia will use the gas supply as a political weapon. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress and some in the administration support this position
Under the expected deal between the United States and Germany, Ukraine would get $ 50 million in green energy technology credits, a guarantee of reimbursement of gas transit charges that it will lose by being bypassed by the pipeline until 2024, and a commitment from Germany and the United States, sanctions will be reviewed if Russia uses gas as a political weapon, according to congressional advisers.
As a nod to Poland, Germany will also agree to sign the so-called “Three Seas Initiative”, a program promoted by the EU and the United States which aims to stimulate investment, the development of infrastructure and energy security between countries bordering the Baltic, blacks, and the Adriatic seas, according to aid.