The US and Germany have reached a breakthrough in their conflict regarding the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, US State Department diplomat Victoria Nuland says.
Nuland told a congressional hearing in Washington DC that the agreement would be officially presented later in the day.
The US remains highly sceptical of the almost-complete pipeline but the administration of US President Joe Biden had signalled that it was prepared to soften its stance on the pipeline, which is designed to transport Russian gas to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, which relies on revenue from the gas transit.
During negotiations with representatives of the German government, the US side had been in close consultation with Ukraine.
Nuland said Germany had committed itself in the agreement, among other things, to measures “should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine”.
This includes possible sanctions.
It was also agreed that Ukraine would support an extension of the gas transit agreement, which expires in 2024, for another 10 years.
They will also work to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas and transit revenues.
Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made no secret of the fact that they continue to disagree on Nord Stream 2 during a meeting last week in the US.
Biden warned Russia against using its energy resources as a “weapon” or leverage against its neighbours.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any threat of sanctions was “unacceptable” but Russia will wait for the official statement, he told the Interfax agency.
According to government sources, Merkel spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, with Nord Stream 2 also a topic of discussion.
In the US, there has been bipartisan opposition to Nord Stream 2 for years, so the foreseeable agreement is likely to face strong opposition in Congress.
There, many Republicans reject the project and are demanding sanctions, as do some of Biden’s Democrats.
Critics see the pipeline as a Russian geopolitical project that endangers Europe’s energy independence.
They also complain that the pipeline could harm Ukraine.
Ukraine depends on billions of dollars in revenue from Russian gas transit.
Supporters of the pipeline, on the other hand, accuse the US of only wanting to sell its own more expensive gas in Europe.