Merkel braces for showdown with Biden over Russia deal – aides rush for emergency talks

Russia: Expert discusses Nord Stream and Navalny

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The US-Russia crisis has reached a crucial juncture with the leaders of each nation due to meet in a few weeks. The White House hopes the face-to-face meeting will bring some predictability and stability to the fraught relationship between the countries after tensions have escalated amid his first months in office.

But amid the soured relationship between Moscow and Washington, the German Chancellor has sent aides for emergency talks with the US President about the future of the Nord Stream 2 project.

The delegation is led by Jan Hecker, foreign policy advisor to the Chancellor, and Lars-Hendrik Roller, the chief economic adviser.

The two aides will meet with Mr Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and the trade representative Katherine Tai.

This comes amid a bitter row between Moscow and Washington after the US announced sanctions against Russia in response to what it called cyber-attacks and other hostile acts.

Mr Biden said Russia’s efforts to undermine free elections in the US were an “unusual and extraordinary” threat to security.

In addition to the sanctions, Mr Biden announced the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for alleged “destabilising activities”.

But, the Biden administration waived sanctions on a company building a controversial gas pipeline between Russia and Germany last week.

The US also lifted sanctions on the executive who leads the firm behind the Nord Stream 2 project.

Geopolitical experts believe the move was made as a way to shore up relations between the US and Germany, rather than the US and Russia.

The Nord Stream 2 is a new export gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea.

Last year, Ms Merkel was urged to cut ties with Russia following the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former ambassador to Washington, backed a response from the EU and NATO.

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He said: “If we want to send a clear message to Moscow with our partners, then economic relations must be on the agenda and that means the Nord Stream 2 project must not be left out.

“We can’t put up a wall between the West and Russia, that would be a step too far, but there is a middle ground, something between diplomatic gestures and total boycott.”

This month, Mr Biden and Mr Putin will meet in Switzerland face-to-face.

The summit will be held at the end of the US President’s visit to Europe and after he meets with American allies in NATO and the European Union.

According to a source familiar with the issue, no significant agreements are expected from the Geneva summit.

Mr Biden – who raised the prospect of a summit with Mr Putin earlier this year – previously expressed the important roles that personal relationships play in foreign policy.

The US President has been a vocal critic of Mr Putin and in February he was asked whether he thought the Russian president was a killer to which he replied: “I do.”

Mr Putin hit back at the remarks and said: “I remember in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard with each other we used to say: ‘It takes one to know one’.

“And that’s not a coincidence, not just a children’s saying or joke.

“The psychological meaning here is very deep.

“We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are.

“And as a result, we assess (a person’s) activities and give assessments.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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