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Germany will act if Russia invades Ukraine, possibly halt Nord Stream 2 pipeline: reports

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U.S. officials have told members of Congress they have an understanding with Germany to shut the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, a congressional aide told Reuters on Tuesday.

The aide said U.S. officials told Congress they have been in contact with their German counterparts in the event of an invasion, given the massing of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

U.S. officials say they have received assurances from Germany the pipeline would be turned off, the aide said. But it was unclear if the two sides had agreed on a definition of invasion, the aide said.

Read more: What’s at the centre of the Russia-Ukraine tensions?

When asked about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Biden administration is in “intensive consultations” with the new German government over a possible response.

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Nuland said the U.S. believes Germany would be ready to take significant action if Russia launches an attack.

However, a European diplomat told Reuters U.S. officials had made it clear to allies that they would act to sanction the pipeline in the event of an invasion, which could make any German action a moot point.

“If the U.S. imposes (additional) sanctions, it’s an academic point, because no one will be able to do business with Nord Stream 2 for fear of running afoul of U.S. sanctions.”

German officials told reporters on Tuesday that there was still a process to complete before the pipeline would even start operations.

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What is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?

The newly-completed Nord Stream 2 project is an underwater twin pipeline that would transport natural gas from Russia directly to Germany across the Baltic sea. The project has been a source of tension between the U.S. and Germany in the past, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration being unwilling to use it as a political tool with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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U.S. President Joe Biden has long opposed the Russian-German pipeline. The U.S. State Department has sanctioned Russian entities related to it, but not the company behind it, as it has tried to rebuild ties with Germany that deteriorated under Donald Trump’s administration.

Biden, Putin meet

U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin met virtually on Thursday amid growing tension and concerns about a potential war brewing between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbour.

The Kremlin has denied harbouring any intention to attack Ukraine and has said its troop posture is defensive.

Read more: Biden, Putin hold 2 hours of talks amid Russia-Ukraine tensions

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During the two-hour meeting, Biden voiced the “deep concerns of the United States and our European allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine,” the White House said, and “made clear that the U.S. and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.”

U.S. officials said Biden would tell Putin that Russia and its banks could be hit with the toughest sanctions yet if it attacks Ukraine.

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Bloomberg reported earlier Tuesday that Biden’s administration would seek a commitment from the new German government to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project should Putin invade Ukraine, citing documents and people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified.

The project is considered crucial for both Putin — as a way to sell more gas to Europe — and for Germany, which relies on supplies from Russia. While the Biden administration can’t stop the project outright, Bloomberg said, it can result to additional sanctions on people and those involved.

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At a press conference Tuesday, incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dodged a question on whether his government would stop Nord Stream 2 if Putin did, in fact, invade Ukraine. Scholz called the situation “serious” and said his government would watch the situation closely.

This is a developing story. More information to come.

— with files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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