Warsaw, Poland – Poland has reacted angrily to President Joe Biden’s decision to waive US sanctions on Nord Stream II, warning the move could threaten energy security across Central and Eastern Europe.
“The information is definitely not positive from the security point of view, as we know perfectly that Nord Stream II is not only a business project – it is mostly a geopolitical project,” said Piotr Muller, a spokesman for the Polish government.
President Biden waives US sanctions on Nord Stream II pipeline
“The project changes the structure of powers in Central and Eastern Europe when it comes to energy security,” Muller told Poland’s Radio Plus, adding that Warsaw, which has taken steps to reduce its reliance on Russian gas, had perceived positively the former US administration’s steps on the issue.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration waived sanctions on the company building the controversial gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, as well as on its chief executive, Matthias Warning, a former East German intelligence operative and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the decision as “a positive signal”, while deputy-Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it provided “a chance for a gradual transition toward the normalisation of our [US-Russian] bilateral ties.”
Now 95% complete, the Nord Stream II pipeline would transport gas from the Russian Arctic to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
President Biden had previously said he opposed the $11 billion project, with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisting he was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent [its] completion.”
Decision welcomed in Germany, criticised in Poland
Announced following a phone-call between Joe Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the US decision to lift sanctions was welcomed in Berlin, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noting that “it is an expression of the fact that Germany is an important partner for the US, one that it can count on in the future.”
The highly controversial pipeline has met with vigorous opposition across Central and Eastern Europe, including in Poland and Ukraine where officials say the project would be used by the Kremlin as a geopolitical weapon, de-facto increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and threaten energy security in the Eastern half of the continent.
The move is bound to further complicate relations between the new US administration and Poland, one of Washington’s closest allies in the region whose government had invested significant political capital in forging close ties with former President Donald Trump.
Although vowing to be tough “in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions,” M. Biden was accused by a string of Republicans of playing into President Putin’s hand. The decision to waive sanctions on Nord Stream II is widely seen as a gesture of good-will towards Germany after years of deteriorating relations between Berlin and Washington, and ahead of a European trip of the US President in June.