Merkel Tells Biden She’s Open to Talks on Russia Energy Ties

Angela Merkel said she’s willing to discuss energy ties with Moscow with the incoming U.S. administration, but the German chancellor reiterated her support for a controversial gas pipeline to Russia.

“We need to also discuss which economic relations in the gas sector are possible with Russia, and which aren’t,” Merkel said during a news conference in Berlin Thursday, referring to planned talks with Joe Biden’s government. “My basic position on Nord Stream 2 hasn’t changed,” she added, when asked about plans to complete the pipeline between Germany and Russia.

U.S. pressure over the project ramped up in the last days of President Donald Trump’s term. The State Department had notified companies and the German government of the risks of supporting the project.

Merkel Tells Biden She’s Open to Talks on Russia Energy Ties

Nord Stream is one of a long list of issues that President Biden will have to grapple with at the start of his four-year term. Antony Blinken, Biden’s pick for secretary of state, is “determined to do whatever we can to prevent” the completion of the pipeline, he said during his confirmation hearing Tuesday.

While signalling a willingness to talk, Merkel also pushed back on Thursday, saying sanctions are unacceptable and that Washington itself has energy ties to Russia.

“It’s not as if there aren’t any trade relations in the oil sector between the U.S. and Russia,” Merkel said. “We need to put all this on the table and discuss whether we won’t have any more trade with Russia in the gas sector, what degree of dependence is acceptable.”

Construction of the 1,230-kilometer (764-mile) gas pipeline that will deliver Russia’s natural gas to Germany was halted after the U.S. imposed sanctions in December 2019, when all but 160 kilometers of the link had been put in place. The U.S. -- which has since tightened restrictions -- maintains that the gas link gives Moscow too much leverage over Europe’s gas supplies and threatens the security of the region.

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