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Nord Stream 2 pipeline a sanctions option if Russia invades Ukraine: German envoy

OTTAWA — A controversial gas pipeline that links to Russia beneath the Baltic Sea could be part of a broader package of sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine, says Germany's ambassador to Canada.

OTTAWA — A controversial gas pipeline that links to Russia beneath the Baltic Sea could be part of a broader package of sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine, says Germany's ambassador to Canada.

Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser says her government is not above including Nord Stream 2 on a menu of retaliatory economic measures against Moscow. 

The lucrative Russian gas pipeline project that winds through the Baltics connecting to Germany is not yet operational, and it has faced strong opposition from the United States and Ukraine.

But with 100,000 Russian troops massing on Ukraine's borders, the U.S. and its European allies are showing much greater unanimity on including Nord Stream 2 in a fresh set of sanctions in the event Russia invades.

"When it comes to an invasion or attack on Ukraine, everything is on the table. And that includes Nord Stream," Sparwasser said in an interview Friday.

In recent days, U.S. officials have been expressing much certainty that Nord Stream 2 could be in play, while German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told her parliament on Thursday that her government is working on a sanctions package with its allies that could include it.

Canada and Germany are co-operating closely on possible sanctions as members of NATO and the G7, Sparwasser said.

Germany holds the G7 presidency this year and will host a leaders' summit in its scenic Bavarian mountains, where fighting climate change is her government's top agenda item.

Sparwasser said the need to find clean new energy sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels has a direct link to the pipeline politics that Germany is now embroiled in as part of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. 

About 40 per cent of Europe is dependent on natural gas from Russia, but the Kremlin has cut supplies in the past as a weapon.

Sparwasser said the current crisis is sparking "quite a bit of a thought on going faster with renewable energy, going faster with diversification" in light of Russia cutting off European energy flows in the past.

And Germany sees Canada as a "like-minded partner" in the pursuit of clean energy and tackling climate change, said Sparwasser. 

The Trudeau government has faced criticism from political opponents and environmental groups over the fact that Canada's carbon emissions actually rose from 2015 to 2019, the most recent years for which data is available.

"Canada has its own challenges as a fossil fuel-producing country. And you have to address that," said Sparwasser.

"We also see a lot of scope to work together with Canada, when it comes to producing renewable energy. For example, when it comes to producing hydrogen — a very big subject for us in our bilateral relationship, but also for critical minerals," she added.

"It's very important for us to have safe supplies of critical minerals that are needed in order to create the wind turbines, in order to create the batteries that we need for electrification and turning towards renewable energy."

Sparwasser also made clear that Canada and Germany share the same view of the broader global security challenge posed by authoritarian countries such as Russia and China.

German diplomats were keen to show solidarity with Canada in China while two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were imprisoned in retaliation for the RCMP's arrest of Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant, she said.

China accused the two Canadian men of spying — an allegation that Canada and its allies rejected as trumped-up retaliation — and eventually convicted them in closed-door trials. German diplomats made a point of attending their court appearances, even though they and other western diplomats were barred from the proceedings.

"That was a wake-up call for all of us. And we all understood that we need to show solidarity and stand firm," she said. "They stood in front, solidly showing that we were totally united with Canada."

Sparwasser took note earlier this week when Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland framed the current Russia-Ukraine conflict as part of the growing struggle between authoritarianism and democracy.

"There is a great sort of competition now going on and between authoritarianism and democracies," said Sparwasser. 

"We need to stand together, and we need to work together in order to defend our values. And I think this is more under threat than ever before."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2022.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press