State Dept vows Nord Stream 2 will be a 'hunk of metal at bottom of the ocean' if Russia invades Ukraine

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The State Department on Thursday unequivocally warned that if Russia invades Ukraine the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will sit unused at the bottom of the ocean.

The controversial pipeline has become the U.S. and NATO’s biggest bargaining chip in its attempts to preserve Kyiv’s sovereignty.

View of pipe systems and shut-off devices at the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline. 
(Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images)

But reporters questioned the diplomatic agency on whether Germany, which would profit from the functioning pipeline, is on the same page when it comes to countering a Russian incursion.  

“We continue to have strong, clear communication with our German allies,” Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said. “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”

Her comments echoed those made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week, but reporters pushed back on the ability to enforce this threat given the pipeline’s physical completion. 

“It is not ready to be turned on,” Nuland said. “It has not been tested, it has not been certified, it has not met the regulatory pieces that would allow it to be turned on both on the German side and the EU side.

“As Sen. Cruz likes to say, ‘It is currently a hunk of metal at the bottom of the ocean’,” she added. “No gas will flow through it until those things happen.”

State Department Under Secretary for Public Affairs Victoria J. Nuland speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

Berlin prompted some cause for concern earlier this month when reports surfaced that suggested sanctioning the pipeline to circumvent Russian aggression in Eastern Europe was an unpopular solution in Germany.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz countered these reports and said he would ensure the newly instated government would abide by the July agreement reached by President Biden and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

If allowed to fully function, the controversial pipeline would funnel gas from Russia through Germany under the Baltic Sea — bypassing an existing pipeline that runs into Ukraine. 

“We are working on a strong package of sanctions” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told parliament Thursday, noting that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was just one of the economic areas of interest, according to Radio Free Europe. 

The White House and NATO have been diligent in their messaging and claim the alliance holds a united front, particularly following the presidential address last week when Biden suggested otherwise.

“As the president said earlier this week, we are unified,” Nuland told reporters Thursday. “If Moscow rejects our offer of dialogue, costs must be swift and severe.”

Relations between the U.S., NATO and Russia have remained tense, and the Kremlin has yet to dismantle its 100,000-troop presence amassed along Ukraine’s border.

Putin, in the wake of Biden’s comments, says Russia knows "how to defend our own interests."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees from the west that NATO will not be allowed to expand into Kyiv and that strike weapons will not be placed in Ukraine. 

The U.S. and NATO have flatly rejected a membership ban into the 30-nation alliance, but Biden has suggested that negotiations on strike weapons placement could be negotiated. 

The U.S. delivered a written document to Putin this week in response to his demands, though the details of the proposed negotiations remain ambiguous.  

The State Department told reporters Thursday that the Kremlin has said Putin will need “a little time” to study the response. 

“From where we’re standing, the ball is in their court,” Nuland said. 

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