U.S. urges Ukraine to stay quiet on Russian pipeline

The U.S. officials have indicated that going public with opposition to the forthcoming agreement could damage the Washington-Kyiv bilateral relationship, those sources said. The officials have also urged the Ukrainians not to discuss the U.S. and Germany’s potential plans with Congress. A senior administration official disputed this reporting, noting that the situation is more nuanced than that, but declined to share further details on U.S. officials’ talks with their Ukrainian counterparts.

American negotiators and diplomats have signaled that they have given up on blocking completion of the pipeline, known as Nord Stream 2, which will ship cheap natural gas from Russia to Germany and stands to be a boon for Moscow.

In the meantime, they have been trying to mollify a key regional partner in Ukraine — which stands to lose the most from the pipeline’s ultimate completion — and rebuild the frayed U.S. relationship with Germany, which supports the pipeline. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not reach an agreement on how to handle the matter when she visited Washington last week, Reuters reported. Biden said after meeting with her that “good friends can disagree.”

In ongoing talks with Germany, U.S. officials are trying to limit the risks the pipeline will present to Ukraine and to European energy security, the official told POLITICO. American and German officials are in talks about the pipeline and its impact on Ukraine, that official added. They are looking for ways to reduce the damage it does to the young democracy.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the pipeline’s completion is a fait accompli. The senior administration official said the U.S. has concluded that sanctions will not be able to block the pipeline’s completion.

The administration’s position is at odds with much of Congress and with the Ukrainian government and other Eastern European allies, who have long held that U.S. intervention can still block completion of the pipeline, which is nearly completed.

The four people familiar with the situation, including a congressional source with direct knowledge, described the dynamics on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Details began circulating around Capitol Hill late Monday.

U.S. officials’ pressure on Ukrainian officials to withhold criticism of whatever final deal the Americans and the Germans reach will face significant resistance.

A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv’s position is that U.S. sanctions could still stop completion of the project, if only the Biden administration had the will to use them at the construction and certification stages. That person said Kyiv remains staunchly opposed to the project.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration gave Zelensky a date for a meeting at the White House with the president later this summer, according to a senior administration official.

Critics of the forthcoming U.S.-Germany pact over the pipeline say it will mainly serve Russia’s interests and harm ties between Washington and Kyiv.

“It’s unbalanced and unfair that Russia gets a huge reward and Ukraine is flogged over criticism,” said Alina Polyakova, the president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. “It’s 100 percent true that if Trump did this,” everyone would go nuts, she added.

The U.S. put sanctions on the pipeline during the Trump administration that stalled the project. Germany’s finance minister tried to make a deal with the Trump administration that would have funded the import of U.S. liquefied natural gas to Europe in exchange for withholding sanctions on the pipeline, according to Environmental Action Germany, as RFE/RL reported. But Trump did not take the deal and there were disagreements within the administration about how far to go with sanctions, prompting Congress to beef up the U.S. sanctions regime.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington have long opposed the pipeline, which would run from Russia to Germany and significantly increase Western Europe’s dependence on Russia for energy.

“It’s doubling down on gas energy imports from Russia rather than investing in diversification of energy sources — green energy in particular,” Polyakova said. “As long as you get cheap Russian gas, why invest in other energy sources?”

The new pipeline would also be a body blow to Ukraine’s economy, as Russia pays billions of dollars in transit fees on the gas that passes through Ukraine on its way to Europe.

Nord Stream 2’s opponents say it would also reduce Ukraine’s leverage in peace talks with Russia, whose incursions into eastern Ukraine have drawn international condemnation.

Congress approved a slate of mandatory…

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