Germany Cannot Rule Out Nord Stream 2 as Means of Pressure, Says Foreign Policy Expert

BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany cannot rule out using the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a means of pressure against the Kremlin in case of further Russian aggression towards Ukraine, a senior official from the party that leads Germany's coalition government told broadcaster ARD on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who also represents the Social Democratic Party (SPD), has repeatedly said Nord Stream 2 was a purely private sector enterprise and out of the state's regulatory reach.

"We are counting on a diplomatic-political solution, and the diplomatic toolbox also includes sanctions," German Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael Roth told ARD shortly before Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's talks in Moscow.

"If we should really come to sanctions, and I still hope we will be able to avoid that, then we cannot rule out in advance things that may be demanded by our partners in the European Union."

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, already built but not yet approved for operation, is intended to bring more Russian gas to Western Europe, but opponents of the project, including Ukraine and the United States, argue it would make Europe too dependent on Russia.

Scholz had said on Monday that Russia would have to reckon with political and economic consequences in the event of an attack, but did not give further details.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his German counterpart Baerbock on Tuesday that politicizing Nord Stream 2 was counter-productive.

Baerbock said on Monday during a visit to Ukraine that the pipeline, which is awaiting clearance from regulators in Germany and the European Union, was on hold and did not comply with European energy law.

"We drew the attention of our German colleagues to the counter-productiveness of attempts to politicize this project," Lavrov told a joint news conference after their meeting. 

On Monday evening, the British government sent a military plane with anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. Germany's Defense Ministry denied the flight route around Germany was due to a lack of flyover permits.

Previously, there had been speculation on social media that Germany might have rejected British flyover requests as Scholz and Baerbock had repeatedly refused to supply arms to Ukraine.

"We have decided to supply Ukraine with light defensive anti-tank weapons," British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the Parliament in London on Monday evening.

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