Germany reportedly offered to spend upwards of $1 billion on US liquefied natural gas and infrastructure for the same, if it would lift sanctions off Nord Stream 2.
This was revealed in recent days, as a letter was leaked allegedly showing the offer.
The leak prompted lawmakers to summon Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from a meeting about coronavirus measures to attend a debate in parliament about Russia.
Scholz allegedly wrote a letter to then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in August saying Germany was “willing to considerably increase its financial support for LNG infrastructure and import capacities by up to 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion)” if, in return, the United States “allows the unhindered construction and operation of Nord Stream 2.”
The letter was published by the NGO Environmental Action Germany, it can be found on their website.
German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer declined to comment on the letter, saying any correspondence on the issue was confidential. She said Berlin is “in contact with the U.S. government” about sanctions and the threat of sanctions. Those measures have delayed completion of the pipeline.
Demmer added that the government had “acted in a coordinated way” over the issue in the past — suggesting that other ministries and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been involved in the discussion.
Scholz didn’t speak, but Foreign Minister Heiko Maas defended proceeding with a new undersea gas pipeline from Russia that faces strong opposition from the U.S. and eastern Europe, arguing that scrapping it could have adverse geopolitical consequences.
Maas said that sanctions against Russia “must hit the right people and not employees of nearly 150 European companies, most of them from Germany.” Nord Stream 2 is owned by Russian state company Gazprom, with investment from several European companies.
Separately, comments by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier drawing a link between Nord Stream 2 and Germany’s debt over World War II have raised hackles in Ukraine and Poland.
Steinmeier had told daily Rheinische Post that Germany needed to keep in mind its eventful history with Russia. “There were phases of fruitful partnership, but even more times of terrible bloodshed,” he said, citing the 20 million people who died in the Soviet Union during World War II.
“That doesn’t justify mistakes in Russian policy today, but we mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture,” said Steinmeier.
Ukraine and Poland complained about the statements.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, said that Steinmeier’s comments in an interview last week “hit us Ukrainians deep in the heart.”
Melnyk accused the German president, whose role is largely ceremonial, of ignoring the fact that millions of the Nazis’ Soviet victims were Ukrainians.
Polish deputy foreign minister Pawel Jablonski argued that “Nord Stream 2 is the worst form of compensation.”
He said that completion of the pipeline would effectively put Ukraine at Russia’s mercy and the European Union “should never agree to continuing this project, especially in the wake of what is happening to Mr. Navalny.”
Germany appears reluctant to connect Navalny and other geopolitical issues with something that it sees as pure business.
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