Candidates to succeed Merkel meet the Nord Stream 2 pipeline

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A traffic sign directs traffic to the entrance of the shore power system of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, September 10, 2020. REUTERS / Hannibal Hanschke

By Paul Carrel

BERLIN (Reuters) – The conservative and green candidates to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel after the federal elections in September clashed on Thursday on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia and over whether Germany should take up US nuclear weapons.

In her first foreign and security policy debate this week, Armin Laschet from Merkel’s conservative alliance welcomed the US government’s decision to lift the sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO.

Gazprom (MCX 🙂 and its western partners are running for the completion of the pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The project, which is now 95% complete, would bypass Ukraine, deprive Ukraine of lucrative transit fees and potentially undermine its fight against Russia.

“I stand by the project and consider it important,” said Laschet in the debate on the broadcaster WDR.

“This decision about how we organize our energy supply is made by ourselves. So it is a good signal that President Trump’s policy is over,” he said, referring to the US waiver of sanctions.

“Germany always has Ukraine’s security in mind,” he added.

But Annalena Baerbock, the Green’s environmentalist candidate, said the pipeline issue was “about war and peace”, arguing that Nord Stream 2 could endanger Ukraine’s security. Over the past few months, Russia has assembled troops on the western border with Ukraine and in Crimea in a so-called defense exercise.

Baerbock ran for a large part of the debate, but Laschet and Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) candidate for chancellor, called them out when she said: “This German government is completely against all other Europeans with this (pipeline) project.”

In the most heated exchange in the hour-long debate, Laschet replied: “That is not true, Ms. Baerbock, and you know it.”

In the project, Germany, the EU’s largest economy, competes against Central and Eastern European countries, including some EU members, who say it will increase the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas.

Baerbock’s differences to Laschet and Scholz are significant, as opinion polls show that a coalition will almost certainly follow after the elections. The Greens are likely to join forces with either Laschet’s conservative camp or Scholz’s SPD.

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