US Unblocks Putin's Pipeline, Russia Comments
Russia did not follow with any actions after Biden's administration has surprised with its sanctions waiver on Moscow's strategic pipeline in Europe.
Two hours into the first face-to-face meeting of the US State Secretary and his Russian counterpart Washington raised blockage of the most important project in Europe for Putin's regime. Former US President Donald Trump's administration imposed all types of sanctions trying to halt the construction of the gas pipeline supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The pipeline issue was the main reason why Germany was uncooperative during Trump's term in the White House.
But the State Department surprised NATO allies with its decision to remove all the barriers for Putin's strategic project that would ensure a steady cash flow for Kremlin for years. The pipeline endangers the economic and military security of Central European countries, including Poland and Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a veteran diplomat, said it was “no secret that we have our differences” and that Washington would respond to aggressive acts by Russia, but that the world would be safer if the two countries’ leaders worked together.
Mr. Lavrov, speaking through a translator at the opening of the meeting in Reykjavik on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting, said Russia and the United States have “serious differences” but have to cooperate “in spheres where our interests collide.”
Mr. Blinken said President Biden wanted “a predictable, stable relationship with Russia” and said the two countries could work together on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, combating climate change, dealing with Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, and the war in Afghanistan.
We think that’s good for our people, good for the Russian people and indeed good for the world, Mr. Blinken stated.
The meeting, the first high-level, in-person discussion between the Biden administration and a Russian counterpart, lasted one hour and 45 minutes, longer than the expected one hour.
A readout of the meeting from State Department spokesman Ned Price did not mention the possible presidential summit.
Mr. Blinken pushed for Russia to release U.S. citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, raised concerns over Russia’s military deployments in and near Ukraine, Mr. Price said.
However, US State Secretary appeared also to make concession to Putin's on his staunch ally asking merely for health of Mr. Navalny, not demanding his release.
Biden flip-flops on the Putin's pipeline
Half an hour into Wednesday’s meeting, the U.S. imposed sanctions on some ships and entities involved in construction of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would take Russian gas from the Arctic to Germany, a deal Biden has opposed.
The Russian pipeline will cost Ukraine in two different ways. First, the Ukrainian gas pipeline company, Gas TSO of Ukraine, will lose substantial revenues from gas transit. Based on the company’s data, we estimate those losses to be between $400 million and $500 million per year from 2021 to 2024. Secondly, as transit volumes decline, the fixed cost of the pipeline infrastructure must be borne by Ukrainian gas consumers. The same logic applies to underutilized infrastructure in Slovakia, Austria, and the Czech Republic, which will also be impacted by lower transit volumes.