by Oleg Burunov
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “have different views” on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Oleksiy Arestovich, a freelance adviser to the head of the office of the Ukrainian president, has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of betraying Kiev’s interests during her recent talks with Volodymyr Zelensky.
In an interview with the news network Ukraina 24 on Thursday, Arestovich described Zelensky’s recent visit to Germany and his subsequent negotiations with Merkel as fruitless.
The adviser argued that the 12 July talks did not bring about any results because “Mrs Merkel stood firm for seven years, but in the end she betrayed Ukrainian interests a bit in favour of Russia”.
According to Arestovich, Zelensky failed to find “common ground” with Merkel on a number of issues, including the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the implementation of the so-called Steinmeier Formula, a mechanism aimed at adding to the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Referring to Merkel as “an outgoing politician”, Arestovich suggested that “polite statements” by the German chancellor and Zelensky during their joint press conference were apparently made in order “not to quarrel”.
The remarks follow Ukrainian opposition lawmaker Vadim Rabinovich hailing Merkel’s decision not to support Zelensky’s proposal to discuss the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project within the Normandy format-related talks during their meeting in Berlin on 12 July.
Writing on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Vadim Rabinovich specifically pointed to Merkel’s good manners during the two’s sit-down. “A well-bred woman even tells someone to f*** off in a polite manner, so as not to offend a person”, Rabinovich noted, in an apparent nod to Merkel and Zelensky.
The Normandy format, which involves Russian, Ukrainian, German, and French negotiators, was created in 2016 to address the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. A civil war has been raging in the country since 2014 when Donetsk and Lugansk declared their independence from Kiev following a violent coup in the Ukrainian capital.
Speaking to reporters after the 12 July talks, Zelensky said he was satisfied with the four-hour negotiations even though he admitted that he and Merkel “have different views on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline”.
Nord Stream 2: Weapon Against Ukraine?
The statement came after the Ukrainian president called the project “a weapon against Ukraine” that will become “a weapon against all of Europe in the future”. Zelensky asserted that the pipeline’s “operational launch is not related to economics”, urging Kiev’s western allies to torpedo the project.
The US and its allies in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Ukraine, have been actively opposing the construction of Nord Stream 2. Washington has already slapped two rounds of sanctions on the project, arguing that once Nord Stream 2 is operational, Europe will become even more dependent on Russia’s energy resources, which will allegedly help Moscow use this as political leverage.
Germany has consistently rejected the prospect of new extraterritorial sanctions against Nord Stream 2, calling US efforts in this direction an “encroachment on European sovereignty”, and warning that it is closely coordinating the issue with its EU partners.
Russia, in turn, views the American sanctions as an example of unfair competition meant to boost US liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe. Moscow has repeatedly warned against politicising what it describes as a purely economic project.
Nord Stream 2 aims to carry 55 billion cubic metres of gas a year across the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine, which is now especially concerned over the looming halt in transit payments.
The project’s implementation is being financed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, as well as France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV, and the UK-Dutch concern Royal Dutch Shell. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s operator says it hopes to complete the project by the end of August, adding that “the work is 98% done”.