Biden and Putin in talks amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine
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The warning came after a summit in Brussels on Thursday, where bloc leaders met as they scrambled to discourage Mr Putin from launching an invasion of Ukraine, as fears have soared due to reports of almost175,000 troops being positioned at the Ukraine-Russia border. One measure to drive the Russian President away from an attack might involve the banning of Nord Stream 2, the currently suspended gas pipeline that will transit gas from Russia into Germany, by passing Ukraine and Poland.
It is expected that, given the language used by key figures in the bloc, this would be accompanied by heavy economic sanctions too.
Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš suggested said the EU should slap Moscow with “very painful economic sanctions” and put the future of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on the table.
He said: “It would be important that we could also decide that Nord Stream 2 is on the table, that if there is heightened military activity this project would be turned off.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after the summit: “Let there be no doubt: if Russia moves against Ukraine, the EU will be in a position to take sanctions that could extract a massive cost.”
Putting the future of Russia’s new pipeline into question is likely to worry Mr Putin, who had already been pushing for its certification to speed up, and deliberately withheld gas supplies travelling into Europe to do so.
The move sent gas prices soaring and made Mr Putin’s grip on European energy a genuine worry.
Mr Kariņš said this has been “a sort of blackmail against the European Union, stating falsely that if we want to have more gas, we must open up to Nord Stream 2”.
But now with the pipeline suspended by German regulators, new Chancellor Olaf Sholz has been urged to scrap the project altogether if Russia launches an attack on Ukraine.
Mr Scholz told reporters in Brussels: “The inviolability of borders is one of the very important foundations of peace in Europe, and we will all do everything together to ensure that this inviolability actually remains intact.”
And after pressure was piled on by EU leaders, Germany’s energy regulator said it would not make a decision on certifying Nord Stream 2 just hours later.
These moves by the EU would be part of the “massive and severe costs, including restrictive measures” that 27 EU heads of state agreed on at the Summit.
This also comes after the US encouraged Germany to shut down the pipeline following a virtual summit between US President Joe Biden and President Putin.
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US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine.
“The subject of the future of Nord Stream 2 in the context of an invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the coming weeks is a topic of utmost priority. It has been discussed thoroughly.”
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