President Biden promised Monday during a joint news conference with Germany’s chancellor that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline “will be no longer” if Russia invades Ukraine.
Biden promised fuel would be prevented from flowing directly to Germany from Russia through the newly constructed Baltic Sea pipeline — before German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a noticeably less enthusiastic endorsement of the idea.
“If Russia invades — that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again — then there will be there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” the president said in the White House East Room. “We will bring an end to it.”
Scholz, standing next to Biden, gave a verbose answer in German to the same question from Reuters reporter Andrea Shalal, who pointed out that Scholz did not specifically mention the pipeline.
“Will you commit today to turning off and pulling the plug on Nord Stream 2? You didn’t mention it. You haven’t mentioned it,” Shalal said.
Scholz, replying in English, said, “As I already said, we are acting together. We are absolutely united and we will not be taking different steps. We will do the same steps and they will be very, very hard to Russia and they should understand.”
Later in the press conference, Biden urged US citizens to flee Ukraine in the face of the Russian threat.
“I think it would be wise to leave the country,” the president said. “I don’t mean our — I don’t mean, I’m not talking about our diplomatic corps, I’m talking about Americans who are there.
“I’d hate to see them get caught in a crossfire if, in fact, they did invade,” Biden went on. “And there’s no need for that.”
Biden waived sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 project in May, citing the fact that it was “almost completely finished.” Construction was completed in September, but the pipeline is not yet operational.
Biden horrified Ukrainian officials last month when he said that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine might result in less-severe penalties — with one Ukrainian official saying that the remark could give Russian President Vladimir Putin a “green light” to invade.
The US and European officials estimate that Putin has massed up to 140,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders. The White House also has alleged Russia may stage a “false flag” attack on its own forces to provide a justification for war.
Putin is demanding that NATO rule out accepting Ukraine as a member, but the Cold War-era military alliance has declined to do so.
When Biden was vice president in 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula and then annexed the territory from Ukraine following a disputed referendum. Putin’s government also allegedly supports a pair of pro-Russia breakaway states in eastern Ukraine.