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Germany Warns Russia That Costs Would Be High If Moscow Invades Ukraine

By RFE/RL December 19, 2021

German ministers have reiterated EU warnings that Russia would face harsher sanctions in the event of military aggression against Ukraine, which they said could also prompt Berlin to rethink its cooperation with Moscow on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

The renewed warnings come as Kyiv and its Western backers accuse Russia of massing about 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine as a possible prelude to an invasion as early as next month.

The European Union has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its seizure and illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014, and over Moscow's backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine in an ongoing conflict that has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.

The bloc has urged Russia to de-escalate and engage in renewed diplomacy over conflict, threatening strong new sanctions in coordination with Britain and the United States if there were any attack.

Russia denies it has plans to launch an offensive and has issued a series of demands about Ukraine's potential membership in NATO and the alliance's activities near its western border.

In an interview published on December 19 as she visited German soldiers deployed in Lithuania, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Russia cannot "dictate" to NATO on regional security.

Those responsible for any Russian aggression against Ukraine must face "personal consequences," Lambrecht also told the German weekly Bild am Sonntag.

"We have to exhaust all the diplomatic and economic sanction possibilities. And all further steps should be agreed with our allies."

Following Russia's seizure of Crimea, NATO has strengthened the protection of its eastern flank, deploying joint combat units in the three Baltic states and in Poland as part of an "enhanced forward presence."

Germany leads the multinational NATO combat unit in Lithuania and provides about half of its 1,200 troops.

Also on December 19, German Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck warned that the future of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany could face "severe consequences" if Russia attacked Ukraine.

Nothing can be excluded if there is a "new violation of the territorial integrity" of Ukraine, Habeck said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Lambrecht and Habeck took up their ministerial posts this month in Germany's new government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Nord Stream 2 is set to double the supply of natural gas from Russia to Germany, but the project has for years been dogged by delays and criticism from Germany's eastern EU allies, including Poland.

The United States and Ukraine oppose Nord Stream 2 on the grounds that it would endanger European energy security by increasing the continent's reliance on Russian gas and deprive Ukraine of transit fees.

Habeck said that from a geopolitical point of view, "the pipeline is a mistake." It has, however, been built, he said.

The new German government already has threatened to block the pipeline from going into operation if Russia invades Ukraine.

"In the event of further escalation, this gas pipeline could not come into service," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

The pipeline awaits approval from German regulators. The pipeline's Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 AG, the company that controls the pipeline, must submit documents to restart the certification process. The pipeline would then also have to be approved by the European Commission.

Germany's energy regulator said on December 16 that no decision on whether to allow the pipeline to be commissioned is expected in the first half of 2022.

Meanwhile, in Washington, lawmakers have not given up on imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG.

The U.S. Senate will vote next month on a bill to slap sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG under an agreement reached on December 18 between Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York).

Cruz agreed to lift a hold on votes to approve several of President Joe Biden's nominees for ambassadorial posts in exchange for a guarantee of a vote on the sanctions bill by January 14.

The deal cleared the way for approval on December 18 of about three dozen ambassadors in votes by the Senate.

Cruz moved to block votes on nominees after the Biden administration in May waived sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, saying the project was already mostly built and as the administration sought to repair ties with Germany.

The controversial $11 billion pipeline was completed in September, and Russia has said it is ready to begin shipping gas.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-nord- stream-2-germany-consequences/31616058.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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