BERLIN (Reuters) – Conservative and Green candidates to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the September federal election clashed on Thursday over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia and over whether Germany should host American nuclear weapons.
In their first debate, which focused on foreign and security policy, Armin Laschet of Merkel’s conservative alliance welcomed the US administration’s decision this week to lift sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its chief executive.
Gazprom and its Western partners are racing to complete the pipeline to send natural gas under the Baltic Sea. The project, now around 95% complete, would bypass Ukraine, depriving it of lucrative transit fees and potentially undermining its struggle with Russia.
âI support the project and consider it important,â Laschet said during the debate hosted by broadcaster WDR.
“This decision on how we organize our energy supply, we make it ourselves, by the way, and so it’s a good signal that President Trump’s policies have ended,” he said, referring to the US sanctions waiver.
“Germany always has Ukraine’s security in mind,” he added.
But Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ environmental candidate, said the pipeline issue was “a matter of war and peace”, arguing that Nord Stream 2 risked undermining Ukraine’s security. In recent months, Russia, in what it called a defensive exercise, has massed troops on its western border with Ukraine and in Crimea.
Baerbock raced for much of the debate, but Laschet and Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats (SPD) candidate for chancellor, called out to her when she said that “this German government is completely against all odds. other Europeans with this (pipeline) project.
In the most heated exchange of the hour-long debate, Laschet retorted: âThat’s not true Mrs Baerbock, and you know it.
The project pits Germany, the EU’s largest economy, against countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including some EU members, who say it would increase the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas .
Baerbock’s differences with Laschet and Scholz are significant because opinion polls show that a coalition is as good as it is certain to follow after the election, with the Greens likely to side with Laschet’s conservative camp or Scholz’s SPD .
Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers; edited by Jonathan Oatis