Nord Stream 2 'will not move forward' if Russia invades Ukraine, US says

Russia to Germany gas pipeline at stake as Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to reaffirm American support

The United States and Germany on Thursday warned Russia that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was at stake if it invades Ukraine, as Washington voiced hope for a diplomatic way out despite frigid statements from Moscow.

A day after the US and its allies formally responded to security demands issued by Russia, top officials in Moscow said their chief concerns were not addressed but notably did not rule out new talks.

President Joe Biden will host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz next month, the White House announced, after Washington said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany will not move forward if Moscow invades Ukraine.

Scheduled for February 7, the meeting comes amid questions over Germany’s resolve to stand up to Russia as it masses tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border.

The two leaders will discuss their “shared commitment to both ongoing diplomacy and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine”, a White House statement read.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would 'not move forward' if Russia invades Ukraine. AP

Separately, Mr Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and "reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine," the White House said.

"He also underscored the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

US State Department spokesman Ned Price had earlier said the contentious Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany will be halted if Russia invades.

"I want to be very clear: if Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward," Mr Price told National Public Radio.

"I'm not going to get into the specifics. We will work with Germany to ensure it does not move forward."

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said she had called for a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the Ukraine crisis on Monday.

"The members of the Security Council must squarely examine the facts and consider what is at stake for Ukraine, for Russia, for Europe, and for the core obligations and principles of the international order should Russia further invade Ukraine," Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.

Europe's most divisive energy project, Nord Stream 2, is designed to double the amount of gas flowing from Russia directly to Germany, bypassing traditional transit nation Ukraine, on the bed of the Baltic Sea.

It has faced resistance within the EU, from the US as well as Ukraine on the grounds it increases Europe's energy dependence on Russia and denies Ukraine transit fees, at a time of Moscow's broader standoff with the West.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she plans to visit the front line between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region next month with her French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Ms Baerbock reiterated the government’s threat of “massive consequences” for Russia if it takes military action and said work is continuing on “a strong package of sanctions”.

The response to any Russian aggression could include the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, she said, and added that Germany is also organising a $167 million loan for Ukraine “as soon as possible".

US officials have said they are in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies worldwide over a potential diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.

When asked earlier about reports that industry had little or no capacity to provide the required supplies, White House press secretary Ms Psaki said the US faced logistical challenges, especially in moving natural gas.

"That's part of our discussions with a lot of companies and countries," Ms Psaki said. "But again, these conversations are ongoing and we don't intend to fail."

Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday said it was clear the US is unwilling to address its main security concerns in the Ukraine crisis, but kept the door open for further dialogue.

The US and Nato submitted a written response on Wednesday to demands Russia has made for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe since it massed troops near Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow needed time to review the response and would not rush to conclusions, but that US and Nato statements describing Russia's main demands as unacceptable did not leave much room for optimism.

"Based on what our (US and Nato) colleagues said yesterday, it's absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents ... we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account," he said.

"But we won't rush with our assessments."

The nuanced Kremlin reaction made clear that Russia was not rejecting the western responses out of hand or closing the door to diplomacy.

The Russian embassy in Washington said the State Department had asked several of its diplomats to leave the country, and posted a video on social media seemingly showing the embassy staff being driven away. The State Department did not comment.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said the US hopes Russia would study what Washington had offered and come back to the table.

"We are unified, unified in our preference for diplomacy. But we are also unified in our resolve that if Moscow rejects our offer of dialogue, the costs must be swift and severe," Ms Nuland told reporters.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: January 28, 2022, 5:18 AM