US, Germany step up pipeline warnings to Russia at UN meeting | Ukraine

The United States and Germany stepped up warnings to Russia that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would be at stake if it invaded Ukraine, as Washington expressed hope for a diplomatic outcome despite icy statements from Moscow.

A day after the United States and its allies formally responded to security requests issued by Russia, officials in Moscow said their main concerns had not been addressed, but notably did not rule out new discussions.

The United States has warned Russia of swift and severe consequences if it invades Ukraine after Moscow mustered tens of thousands of troops on the border with its Western-leaning neighbor.

After talks of divisions within Europe, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told parliament her government was “working on a robust sanctions package” alongside allies that would include Nord Stream 2.

The pipeline, which Germany defiantly built despite criticism from the United States and Eastern Europeans, will more than double the supply of Russian natural gas to Europe’s largest economy.

In Washington, a senior official said he believed an invasion would prevent Germany from activating the multibillion-dollar project, which was completed in September but still requires testing and regulatory approval.

“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” said Victoria Nuland, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. “I think the statements coming out of Berlin, even today, are very, very strong.”

This follows comments from a US State Department spokesman on Wednesday evening that the pipeline, which promises to be very lucrative for its Russian owner, Gazprom, would not go ahead if Vladimir Putin sanctions an attack on Ukraine.

The White House announced Thursday that Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, will travel to Washington on Feb. 7 to discuss the crisis with President Joe Biden.

Stepping up the diplomatic offensive, the United States convened a public meeting at the UN Security Council on Monday on Russia’s ‘threatening behaviour’, hoping to bring condemnation even if Moscow may veto it. to any resolution.

Biden also spoke by phone Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and said the United States was considering economic support after $650 million in military assistance over the past year.

Biden “reaffirmed that the United States and its allies and partners stand ready to respond decisively should Russia further invade Ukraine,” a White House statement read.

But Biden, acknowledging the dangers at the moment, repeated his warning that Ukraine could indeed face a Russian invasion next month.

“President Biden has said there is a real possibility that the Russians will invade Ukraine in February,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.

NATO put 8,500 troops on standby during the Ukraine crisis, in scenes reminiscent of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Russia denies any invasion plans, but last month demanded sweeping security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine never be allowed to join the US-led NATO military alliance .

Washington delivered a response on Wednesday in coordination with NATO allies such as the UK and France, saying Ukraine had the right to determine its own allies but offering Russia talks on missile placements and other mutual concerns.

In a first reaction, the Kremlin was unimpressed but cautious.

“You can’t say that our views were taken into account,” President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Let’s not rush into evaluations; it takes time to analyze.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow’s main concern – the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO – had been ignored, but that it would be possible to move forward on other issues.

“There is an answer that gives hope for the start of a serious conversation on secondary issues,” said Lavrov, who is expected to have further talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken soon.

“There is only one decision maker in Moscow and that is President Putin,” Nuland said for his part. “We hope he sees here a real opportunity for a legacy of security and arms control rather than a legacy of war.

On the streets of Kiev, fears were expressed that Ukraine had been overlooked amid high-level talks between Moscow, NATO and Washington.

“The United States provokes Russia and Russia provokes the United States. And somewhere in the middle is Ukraine,” said 23-year-old businessman Dmytro Sylenko.

“Honestly, I don’t care who provokes who, what matters to me is that there is peace,” he said.

Russia, which has strained historical relations with Ukraine, has fueled an insurgency in the east of the former Soviet republic that has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.

That year, Russia also seized Crimea after the overthrow of a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.

In a separate attempt to defuse tensions, senior Russian and Ukrainian officials held an eight-hour marathon of talks on Wednesday in Paris and agreed to meet again in two weeks in Berlin.

Adding to tensions, a 21-year-old Ukrainian national guard conscript opened fire on an aerospace factory on Thursday, killing five people, although there was no indication of a link to the standoff with Russia.

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