German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following their meeting in Moscow, Russia January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Pool
January 18, 2022
By Alexander Ratz and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Germany is ready to defend fundamental values in the conflict with Russia over Ukraine, even if this means paying a high economic price, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said after talks with her Russian counterpart in Moscow on Tuesday.
Baerbock travelled on to Moscow from a visit to Kyiv on Monday after talks between Russia and Western states on the Kremlin’s deployment of tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border ended with no breakthrough last week.
Russia has denied any plans to attack Ukraine, but Baerbock said it was difficult not to assess the Russian military build-up on the border of Ukraine as “a threat.”
Pressure is growing on the German government to threaten to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, intended to bring more Russian gas to Western Europe, if Russian troops invade Ukraine.
Opponents of the project, including Ukraine and the United States, argue it would make Europe too dependent on Russia.
“We have no other option, even if this means paying a high economic price,” Baerbock told a joint news conference with Sergei Lavrov after the meeting.
“Germany has reiterated that, in case energy is being used as a weapon, that this would have consequences on the (Nord Stream 2) pipeline,” she noted.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Germany is open to sanctions against Russia but the pipeline, which has already been built but not yet approved for operation, is a private commercial project that should not be singled out.
The news conference came as the U.S. State Department said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel to Kyiv and Berlin this week.
The United States has warned Russia not to invade Ukraine and urged both countries to return to a set of agreements designed to end the war in the eastern Donbass region.
Russian would welcome U.S. participation in diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Lavrov said.
(Reporting by Alexander Ratz and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Zuzanna Szymanska and Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Writing by Sarah Marsh, Editing by Miranda Murray, William Maclean)