The United States and Germany are increasing their warnings to Moscow that natural gas will not flow through a major new pipeline from Russia to Germany if Russia invades Ukraine.
“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” the State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said at a daily news briefing on Thursday, referring to the pipeline.
Mr. Price’s language about the $11 billion pipeline project — which has been built but has not received German regulatory approval to operate — was more definitive than that of German officials.
A day earlier, Germany’s ambassador to Washington, Emily Haber, posted a tweet saying that if Russia violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, it “will have to pay a high price,” adding that “nothing will be off the table, including Nord Stream 2.”
But Mr. Price hinted that Germany has made its intentions known to Washington.
“We’ve had extensive consultations at every level with our German allies,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to get into the specifics here today, but we will work with Germany to ensure that the pipeline does not move forward.”
The pipeline, which runs from Russia under the Baltic Sea into Germany, provides Russia with an alternate to the existing pipeline that runs through Ukraine, which draws billions of dollars in annual transit fees.
The Nord Stream project has become a divisive issue in Congress, where Republicans are insistent that President Biden prevent the project from becoming operational with sanctions against German business. Mr. Biden has resisted that step given Germany’s importance as a U.S. ally.
Some analysts caution that the pipeline has drawn more attention from Washington than it merits. Several other pipelines from Russia allow Mr. Putin to conduct lucrative gas sales to Europe, including Nord Stream 1, they say, and so since Nord Stream 2 is not yet up and running, Mr. Putin has no existing revenue at stake.
“Its importance in the current conflict is totally overblown,” Kadri Liik, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said during a Thursday event held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Putin might want Nord Stream 2 but he doesn’t want it so much — he definitely wants Ukraine more than that pipeline,” Ms. Liik added. “So it’s not something you can use to deter Putin.”
The United States is coordinating with allies to ensure that Europe’s natural gas supplies do not become collateral damage in the conflict — potentially by a move on Mr. Putin’s part to halt supplies in response to Western sanctions on his country should he choose to invade Ukraine.
In a joint statement on Friday, Mr. Biden and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the United States and European Union were working together to ensure natural gas supplies to Europe “from diverse sources across the globe to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”