VILNIUS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has called "a mistake" the recent agreement between the United States and Germany on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, adding, however, that Western countries still have leverage to secure benefit for Ukraine from the project that is nearing completion.
According to Landsbergis, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine or a clear NATO membership prospect for Ukraine could be a precondition for the gas pipeline connecting Russian and Germany via the Baltic Sea to start operating.
His comment came in response to the US-German decision to end disagreements over the Nord Stream 2 project.
"I believe it's a mistake and that mistake will cost dearly," Landsbergis told journalists in Vilnius on Thursday. "I see possibilities to resolve that mistake, (…) if Ukraine was offered a NATO membership action plan or the launch of the gas pipeline was used as leverage to demand withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine's territories," he added.
The new gas pipeline is "a major victory" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Lithuanian diplomacy chief says, adding that "he needs to pay a really high cost for that victory".
"That is major leverage and there's a possibility to use that leverage to somehow minimally positively. If that's not done, that would be a loss (…), first of all, for those countries that agreed on this Nord Stream 2," Landsbergis said.
Under the US-German agreement, Washington will renounce plans to impose sanctions on the participants of the Nord Stream 2 project, but the chance of EU sanctions for Moscow remains if Russia uses the gas pipeline as an energy pressure measure.
The agreement also states the goal of preserving the existing gas transit via Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 would double the capacity of Russia's gas export corridor to Germany, allowing Moscow to bypass Ukraine as a transit country for Russian gas. That would lead to Ukraine losing billions of euros.
Germany also vows to use all leverage to persuade Russia to extend by up to 10 years its gas transit agreement with Ukraine that is set to expire in late 2024.
Landsbergis says it shows that Germany is taking responsibility in this process but contracts might mean nothing for Russia.
"We know that Russia is not meeting contracts now already. The very Druzhba oil pipeline in Lithuania that "broke down" and that's it. Also some gas pipeline to Ukraine might also "break down", the minister said. "It's quite possible, I think. Such key gas pipelines break down very much."
Ukraine's trust in strategic partners will go down because of the West's behavior regarding the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Landsbergis says.
In his words, Ukraine had expectations for Western integration, especially to get a NATO membership action plan, which it was promised at the Bucharest summit 13 years ago.
"Instead of an action plan, they get the Nord Steam 2. I would say it's a bad exchange," the Lithuanian foreign minister said.
The Nord Stream 2 project is expected to be completed this summer.