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U.S.-German Deal Will Lead To The Completion Of Russian Gas Pipeline

NOEL KING, HOST:

The U.S. and Germany have reached an agreement that will allow a Russian gas pipeline to be finished. The two countries have been fighting for a long time over Nord Stream 2. But now Ukraine is worried. NPR's Jackie Northam explains why.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline snakes for more than 700 miles from Russia to Germany. When the last 100 miles is finally completed, it will roughly double Europe's energy supply. The pipeline has been a tricky foreign policy issue for the last three administrations. There are fears it will give Russia too much power over Europe's energy needs and could potentially bypass other countries, such as Ukraine. Russia currently pays Ukraine billions of dollars each year in transit fees to move gas into Europe. State Department Spokesman Ned Price says despite the deal signed with Germany, the Biden administration adamantly opposes the pipeline.

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NED PRICE: We continue to view it as a Kremlin geopolitical project whose goal is to expand Russia's influence over Europe's energy resources. We continue to believe it's a bad deal for Germany. It's a bad deal for Ukraine. It's a bad deal for Europe and Europe's broader energy security goals.

NORTHAM: But Chancellor Angela Merkel has been unwavering in her support for the pipeline as a way to meet Germany's energy needs. And it was discussed when she met with President Biden last week. The State Department's Price says the administration could have ignored Germany's argument and tried to stop the construction of the pipeline by sanctioning the companies involved, but decided that probably wouldn't make a difference and damage relations with America's most important ally in Europe, Germany.

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PRICE: And so that is why this administration determined that it was not in our interest to significantly undermine, to weaken the relationship we have with our ally, Germany, for a pipeline whose construction would continue nonetheless.

NORTHAM: Under the deal, Germany says it will impose sanctions on Russia if it tries to use energy as a weapon. And it will set up a billion-dollar fund to help Ukraine create a green energy infrastructure. However, there are many skeptics in the U.S. Congress. And Ukrainian government officials are already calling for consultations with Germany and the European Union about the U.S.-German deal.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEST PESSIMIST'S "OCEANICA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.