French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday that Europe should not be „dragged” into following the U.S. position on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline after U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to shut down the project should Russia invade Ukraine, according to Politico.
„The Americans will not have to bear the same consequences of a conflict in Ukraine as the Europeans, especially in terms of energy prices,” Le Maire said on France Inter. „Let us not be dragged by the Americans to a position that is not that of the Europeans,” he added.
During German Chancellor Olaf Scholz‘s visit Monday to Washington, Biden delivered a clear warning on Nord Stream 2, which runs from Russia to Germany: “We will bring an end to it. I promise you. We will be able to do it.”
Standing next to Biden, Scholz stressed unity with the U.S. but didn’t mention the pipeline directly, while Tuesday morning Le Maire stressed the independence of Europe’s position on Nord Stream 2, which he added was „one of the key elements of the solution to this conflict.”
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the French leader failed to publicly combat provocative statements from Putin about NATO. Macron heads to Kyiv on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
„Thanks to [Macron], Europeans have an independent position in this Ukrainian crisis, with interests that are different from those of the Americans, and we must be able to say this to our American allies in the clearest possible way: we have different interests from those of the United States in this crisis,” Le Maire argued. „Our preferred path is not one of confrontation, not one of threats, but one of dialogue and de-escalation.”
Western allies are still struggling to present a united front against Russia as it amasses troops on Ukraine’s border with divisions over whether to supply weapons to Ukraine or when to trigger sanctions if Russia attacks.
Germany, in particular, has come under fire for its limited contribution to Ukraine’s defense, but pledged Monday it would send 350 additional troops to Lithuania, in an effort to show NATO allies that it’s a reliable partner.