Chancellor Angela Merkel saw growing pressure Thursday to reconsider the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bring gas from Russia to Germany, after she said Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-style nerve agent.
Merkel said on Wednesday that Navalny, who is being treated in a Berlin hospital, had been the victim of an attempted murder with the nerve agent Novichok, and demanded an explanation from Russia.
Moscow has denied involvement in the incident, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said Germany’s claim was not supported by evidence.
Western countries have condemned the attack on Navalny and many German politicians want a tough answer.
“We have to pursue tough politics, we have to answer with the only language (Russian President Vladimir) that Putin understands – that is gas sales,” Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, told German radio.
“If the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is now completed, it would be the maximum confirmation and encouragement for Putin to continue this kind of policy,” Roettgen, a member of the Merkel Conservatives, told German television.
Nord Stream 2 is set to double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline for the direct transport of gas from Russia to Germany. Under the management of the Russian company Gazprom with Western partners, the project is more than 90% complete and is expected to be operational from the beginning of 2021. This can make efforts to stop it difficult.
The project has divided the European Union, and some countries are warning against undermining the traditional gas transit state of Ukraine and increasing the bloc’s dependence on Russia for energy supplies.
The United States, keen to increase supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, is also opposed to the pipeline and has targeted some sanctioned companies.
Merkel has worked tirelessly for the project, which includes Uniper Wintershall DEA, Royal Dutch Shell, Engie and OMV. She said last week that Navalny’s case should not be connected to the pipeline. Many lawmakers in their party that is close to business still want it to be done.
Former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a friend of Putin and a lobbyist of Russian energy companies, was involved in the pipeline, and many members of the SPD, which shares power with Merkel’s Conservatives, are also committed to it.
“If we want to send a clear message to Moscow with our partners, economic relations must be on the agenda, and that means that the Nord Stream 2 project cannot be left out,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and former ambassador in Washington said.
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