Berlin Faces Call to Drop NS2 Support
German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces calls from Germany's parliament to drop support for Russia's embattled Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, after revelations that Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.
Navalny fell seriously ill on August 20 on board a plane returning to Moscow from Siberia, and was later transferred to Germany for treatment and remains in an induced coma. The German government said on September 2 it had "unequivocal proof" that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the banned Novichok group. Russia is suspected of having stocks of the substance but has denied responsibility for the event.
"Russia pursues inhuman and contemptuous politics," the chair of the German Bundestag foreign affairs committee, Norbert Rottgen, said in a tweet. "Diplomatic rituals are no longer enough. After the poisoning of Navalny we need a strong European answer which Putin understands: the EU should jointly decide to stop Nord Stream 2."
Rottgen is a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and served as the government's environment minister between 2009 and 2012. Other politicians including Green Party leader Katrin Goering-Eckard have also urged the government to block the project.
Nord Stream 2 is almost complete, but international contractors had to halt construction in December after the US imposed sanctions. Russia now plans to finish the pipeline using its own pipelaying vessel.
Berlin has so far shown firm support for Nord Stream 2, which would pump an extra 55bn m3/yr of Russian gas to Germany. Two German companies, Uniper and Wintershall Dea, are backing the line financially. The government says the project is commercial in nature and that political relations with Russia should have no bearing on its implementation. Germany has also criticised US sanctions as outside interference in what is a European energy matter.
US politicians have also doubled down on calls for Germany to shift its position on Nord Stream 2 in light of the Navalny case. A bill is making its way through Congress that would impose extra penalties against companies involved in its construction.
Merkel has demanded answers from Russia over the poisoning, but has not commented on Nord Stream 2 since the revelation that a Novichok agent was used.
"It was an attempt to silence him. I condemn this in the strongest possible terms on behalf of the entire German government," she told a news conference on September 2. "There are very serious questions now that only the Russian government can answer, and must answer."
Former Russian spy and double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England, in 2018, but recovered, unlike another victim who came into contact with the poison a few months later. The UK government blamed two Russian intelligence servicemen for the attempted murder but has not been able to charge them.