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Merkel Criticizes Russia’s Weaponization Of Natural Gas

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said natural gas should never be used as a geopolitical weapon and backed extending an energy partnership deal with Ukraine once it expires in 2024.

Merkel made the remarks in Kyiv on August 22 at a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Merkel is making her last visit to Ukraine before she is due to step down after elections in Germany next month. Her visit to the Ukrainian capital comes two days after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Merkel has been criticized for backing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which Kyiv, Washington, and others warn will not only strengthen Moscow’s energy hold on Europe but cut Ukraine out of lucrative gas transit fees.

At the press conference, Zelenskiy said talks on extending the gas transit agreement with Russia have been vague. He said he wanted to understand what Ukraine can get after the agreement expires in 2024.

Merkel has been a key supporter of Kyiv since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and began actively supporting separatist formations in parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014. That conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Merkel said in a news conference following her meeting with Putin that she would continue "to work for the territorial integrity of Ukraine" until she steps down following elections in Germany in September.

However, Merkel has been criticized for her stance on Nord Stream 2, which will soon double Russian natural gas supplies to Germany.

Berlin has raised the possibility of creating a mechanism to compensate Ukraine for lost revenue.

"You can call it a pragmatic approach," Zelenskiy said in an interview this week with several media outlets.

He called the German chancellor’s diplomacy a "very delicate balancing act," but he added that "in my opinion, this is too soft."

Ukraine on August 24 will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.

The country will also host several European leaders on August 23 for a summit on Crimea and to discuss ways of having the peninsula returned to Ukraine, but Merkel is not planning to participate in the conference.

At the press conference in Kyiv on August 22, Merkel said Berlin considers Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea as illegal.

By RFE/RL

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on August 25 2021 said:
    Angela Merkel who has built a formidable reputation for decisiveness and ability during her terms as Chancellor of Germany particularly with her stubborn support of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline against US sanctions and her standing up to Donald Trump, shouldn’t end up her term by making unsubstantiated claims about Russia using natural gas as a geopolitical weapon.

    However, she may be forgiven for her ill-judged remarks in Kyiv on August 22 at a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. It is possible she wanted to calm down Ukraine’s president who is worried that with the completion of Nord Stream 2, Russia might be tempted to stop shipping its gas through Ukraine to the EU.

    If Russia with almost 40% of the EU gas market wanted to use gas supplies to the EU as a weapon, it could have done so years ago by reducing supplies during the cold winter months causing gas prices to rocket and the Europeans to shiver long before Nord Stream 2 came on the scene. Moreover, Russia could send most of its gas exports to China, the world’s largest gas market.

    Yet, for more than 15 years Gazprom has been supplying the EU with cheap, reliable and uninterrupted gas supplies with the exception of 2009 when Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine because it didn’t pay gas bills owed to Russia and was stealing Russian gas supplies passing through their territory destined for the EU. In that year Europe really shivered.

    Even with the construction of Nord Stream 2 which is intended to bypass Ukraine, President Putin has already said that Russia will continue to ship gas through Ukraine for the next five years as per the 5-year agreement the two countries signed in December 2020 and could extend the agreement longer provided Ukraine refrains from trying to join the EU or NATO. If it does, it would cross a redline meaning its existence as an independent country will be no more.

    Ukraine should also endeavour to diversify its economy rather than continue to depend for its finances on transiting fees of Russian gas.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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