Washington: US President Joe Biden asserted that the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline could be stopped if Russia did not de-escalate it's military buildup on the border with Ukraine. At a White House press conference Biden, a longtime opponent of the decade-old pipeline project to Germany from Russia, said Russian forces crossing into Ukraine would trigger a shutdown.
The press conference followed the visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who, in January, had said that the pipeline project could be halted if Russian aggression persisted.
"If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the ... border of Ukraine again, then there will be ... no longer a Nord Stream 2. We, we will bring an end to it," Biden was quoted as saying by Reuters. Asked how, given the project is in German control, Biden said: "I promise you, we'll be able to do it."
Scholz said the United States and Germany had the same approach to Ukraine, to Russia and to sanctions, but did not directly confirm the Nord Stream 2 plans or mention the pipeline publicly by name over the course of his day-long visit.
The Gazprom-led pipeline project would be a key energy supplier to Germany. It bypasses Ukraine entirely, a point of contention with the country and with other Western nations who argue that the pipeline could extend Europe's dependence on Russian energy and also deny Ukraine transit fees.
While technically complete, the deep sea pipeline awaits official sanction from Germany where it makes landfall,
Germany's Federal Network Agency - which regulates the country's electricity, gas, telecommunications, post and railway sectors - in November suspended a process to certify the pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea.
Technical requirements have been met. The sticking point is whether Gazprom will comply with European unbundling rules that require pipeline owners to be different from suppliers of gas flowing in them to ensure fair competition.
Scholz is facing a popularity crisis at home in Germany where he is being accused of inefficient leadership during the Ukraine issue. Meanwhile, the US is finalising details of a sanctions package which it has promised to apply in the event of an invasion by Russia.
Banning Russia from the SWIFT financial transaction system remains an option, a US official said.
Steven Sokol, president of the American Council on Germany, said Scholz needed to clarify Germany's position on Nord Stream 2 and show more "creativity" in providing assistance to Ukraine, short of sending in weapons.