US reassures allies on Nord Stream 2 but says it’s a “reality”
A senior US official said on Saturday that he had reassured Ukraine and Poland that any threat posed by Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline had been mitigated, but that the project was now a “reality”.
Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s senior adviser on energy security, told Reuters there was “wiggle room” until 2024 to ensure Ukraine retains its status as a gas transit country, but urged Kiev to move towards alternative energy sources.
The United States has been Ukraine’s strongest backer in a stalemate with Moscow since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, but Kiev opposed a US-German deal in July that made it possible completion of the $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 project.
Russian company Gazprom announced on Friday that it had completed construction of the pipeline, which will deliver natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
The government of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy fears Russia will use it as a geopolitical weapon and deprive Ukraine of billions of dollars in transit fees.
Hochstein visited Ukraine and Poland, which also criticized the US-German deal in July, “to talk to them and reassure them,” he said on the sidelines of the Yalta summit on European strategy ( YES).
“Listen, I think we need to get the process of talking about what we all wish would happen, that the project not be completed, to the reality now that it is going to be completed. “
Ukraine’s current transit agreement with Russia expires in 2024. Moscow has not made a firm commitment to extend it.
When asked if he was convinced Ukraine would retain its transit status, Hochstein said: “I am 100% convinced that we will do whatever we can and that the Germans are determined to do whatever it takes. they can to ensure that this transit continues. “
Ukraine wants Nord Stream 2 to be shut down. If not, Ukraine has called on Washington and Berlin to define specific guarantees on the protection of Kiev’s interests. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting Poland on Saturday.
“We are still waiting for the moment when this (concrete measures) will be put on paper,” Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy’s bureau chief, said at the YES summit.
He said that “today Ukraine is forced to believe not in words but in real steps”.
Washington has not said what action it will take against Russia.
“There is a contract in place until 2024, so we have some leeway here to make sure they live up to the contract they have today and that it doesn’t end in 2024,” he said. Hochstein said.
The US-German agreement provided for a new $ 1 billion “Green Fund for Ukraine” aimed at improving the country’s energy independence.
“We also need to start working with Ukraine to change the energy economy here to match what’s happening in the rest of the world, and especially in Europe,” Hochstein said.