U.S. President Joe Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on July 15, 2021.
Saul Loeb | AFP | images
President Joe Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Thursday that they will oppose any attempt by Russia to use the controversial Nord Stream pipeline as a weapon against neighboring states like Ukraine.
The completion of Nord Stream 2, an $ 11 billion gas pipeline that would lead from Russia directly under the Baltic Sea to Germany, has long been causing tension between Washington and Berlin, otherwise close NATO allies.
"While I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream 2, Chancellor Merkel and I absolutely agree in our conviction that Russia must not use energy as a weapon to force or threaten its neighbors," said Biden.
“My opinion on Nord Stream 2 has been known for some time. Good friends may disagree, but by the time I became president it was 90% complete and sanctions didn't seem to make any sense, ”he said.
The president waived sanctions in May against the Switzerland-based Nord Stream 2 AG, which operates the pipeline project, and its German CEO. Nord Stream 2 AG belongs to the Russian state energy company Gazprom.
Biden has spoken out against the completion of the pipeline, fearing that Moscow could gain more political influence over other European nations and more control over energy reserves.
In particular, the US fears that the pipeline would threaten the security and economy of Ukraine by depriving it of important revenues from gas transportation.
The route of a planned new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe.
Merkel supported the pipeline, but stressed on Thursday that Nord Stream will not replace Ukraine's transit pipelines for natural gas.
"Our idea is and will remain that Ukraine remains a transit country for natural gas, that Ukraine, like any other country in the world, has the right to territorial sovereignty," said Merkel at the joint press conference.
"We will act actively if Russia does not respect this right of Ukraine as a transit country," said Merkel.
Biden said he and Merkel asked their teams to examine practical measures that can be taken to determine whether Europe's energy security will be "strengthened or weakened" on the basis of Russian measures.
The pipeline was one of several global issues that the two heads of state and government addressed on Thursday in the White House during Merkel's likely last visit to Washington before resigning from office.
The two heads of state and government also announced a climate and energy partnership that, according to Biden, will support energy security and the development of sustainable energy in emerging countries in Central Europe and Ukraine.
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Biden and Merkel also signed a pact called the Washington Declaration, which reaffirms the US and Germany's commitment to democratic principles and outlines a shared vision to address global issues guided by these values.
"Our two nations understand the need to prove that democracies can meet the needs of our people in the second quarter of the 21st century," said Biden.
Other issues raised by the two heads of state and government included China, climate change, security issues in Afghanistan and the fight against Covid-19. Biden said the US is looking at when it can lift travel restrictions related to Covid that are banning most Europeans from entering the US, an issue Merkel raised ahead of the joint press conference.
Merkel's visit stands in stark contrast to former President Donald Trump's infamous clashes with her during his tenure, which contributed to the deterioration in relations between the two nations.
Trump publicly called on Merkel because she had not achieved the spending target of 2% of GDP set at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales from Germany.
In response, Merkel often pushed back Trump's rhetoric and criticized political decisions such as his travel ban, which targeted citizens of several mainly Muslim countries.
Biden has made it a priority to repair relations with Germany and other European nations. Merkel is the first European leader to meet with Biden in the White House, and her visit serves as a final farewell to the US as she nears the end of her nearly 16-year historic political career.
Merkel's visit ends with a dinner hosted by President and First Lady Jill Biden in the state dining room. Vice-President Kamala Harris, the second gentleman Dough Emhoff and others who strengthen Germany's relations with the United States will attend the dinner.
"I know that the partnership between Germany and the USA will be further strengthened on the foundation that you helped to build," Biden told Merkel.
"But personally I have to tell you, I will miss you at our summit, I really will. So thank you again for the trip, for the productive meeting today and for your friendship," he said.