Top Western officials met at the Munich Security Conference on February 18 and jointly declared that they are preparing a series of “painful” sanctions against Russia.
Germany’s foreign minister confirmed that the economic coercive measures could force the closure of its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia – an outcome the United States has repeatedly called for.
The chief of the European Union added that Russian energy giant Gazprom may be sanctioned as well.
There are even discussions of potential US sanctions to cut off Russian state-owned banks from using dollars, which Reuters noted would freeze “any dollar-denominated assets or liabilities held by the banks at home and abroad.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has argued that Western governments are using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to impose these sanctions on his country, and he condemned the economic attack as illegal.
In a press conference after meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on February 18, Putin said, “Sanctions will be imposed in any case. Whether they have a reason today, for example, in connection with the events in Ukraine, or there is no such reason – it will be found, because the goal is different, in this case the goal is to slow down the development of Russia and Belarus.”
“This is a gross violation of international law, but those who are now talking about [new sanctions], they care about [international law] only when it is advantageous to them,” the Russian leader added. “When it is not advantageous to them, they are happy to forget about all the norms of international public right.”
Putin’s argument has been clearly confirmed by comments made by top US and European leaders.
US fuels crisis in Ukraine to sabotage Germany’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia
Washington’s goal in stoking the crisis in Ukraine and constantly giving false dates of an impending Russian invasion is to enforce NATO bloc discipline and prevent Europe from economically integrating with Russia – and by extension China.
The US government has made it clear that it seeks to sabotage the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring gas from Russia to Germany, and therefore deepen Russia’s ties to Western European economies.
The pipeline has already been built, but it is awaiting certification from German regulators.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly stressed that, if Russia militarily intervenes in Ukraine, Washington will force Germany to cancel Nord Stream 2.
For his part, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to say if the pipeline would be shut down if the violence escalates in Ukraine.
But Germany’s hawkish Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock let the cat out of the bag in a speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 18.
Baerbock, of the US-backed, pro-war Green Party, declared that NATO member states are united in preparing “unprecedented sanctions” on Moscow.
“All options are on the table, including Nord Stream 2,” Baerbock said.
She added, “We, Germany, are prepared to pay a high economic price for this.”
German chancellor Scholz has been criticised for not stating clearly enough that #NordStream2 would be stopped if Russia goes a step too far.
— Thomas Sparrow (@Thomas_Sparrow) February 18, 2022
EU chief says sanctions on Russia’s energy giant Gazprom are “on the table”
The German foreign minister’s comments were echoed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Munich Security Conference.
“Everything is on the table,” von der Leyen said, when asked if the European Union was considering imposing sanctions on Russia’s state-owned energy firm Gazprom.
Gazprom is the heart of Russia’s economy, and the largest company in the country. Sanctions on the firm would be an unprecedented attack aimed at decoupling Western European economies from Russia.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNBC at #MSC2022 on Saturday that "everything is on the table" in terms of the possibility of energy sanctions on gas giant Gazprom if Russia invades Ukraine. #RussiaUkraineConflict https://t.co/d4IiWxRB4T
— Vicky McKeever (@VMcKeeverCNBC) February 19, 2022
Von der Leyen noted that Europe imports approximately 40% of its gas from Gazprom, criticizing it as a form of “dependency.”
Since the crisis in Ukraine erupted in late 2021 and early 2022, the United States has become the largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG) for the first time in history.
This is precisely because the US has substantially boosted its LNG exports to Europe, to make up for a decrease in imports from Russia.
"Sky-high European demand drove U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to a record in December"
About half of the record U.S. LNG volumes went to Europe, up from 37% earlier in 2021https://t.co/j18Mvniqgs
— Benjamin Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 22, 2022
Senior State Department officials have in fact quietly held discussions with leaders of fossil fuel corporations to make plans for drastically increasing the gas supply to Europe if violence escalates in Ukraine.
It's not a coincidence that, as hawks in the US/EU/Ukraine have pushed for conflict with Russia over the past few months, Russian gas exports to Europe have dropped — and US gas exports to Europe have increased to a record high.
— Benjamin Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 22, 2022
US House speaker Nancy Pelosi warns sanctions on Russia will be “painful”
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, also traveled to Munich for the conference.
Pelosi emphasized at the meeting that, if Russia militarily intervenes in Ukraine, NATO member states will impose sanctions that “are going to be fierce, and they are going to be painful.”
“There is a price to pay,” the Democratic Party leader declared. “It won’t be a long time for the Russian people, sadly, to feel the impact of the [sanctions].”
Democrats have long worked to strengthen the US alliance with NATO partners and allies. With Russia on the brink of attacking Ukraine, Putin needs to know we are united in solidarity against war and for targeted sanctions that will be painful for him. –NP https://t.co/w2svIhC8rQ
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) February 19, 2022
Some Western foreign policymakers have also used the crisis in Ukraine as an opportunity to call for imposing sanctions on China.
Recognizing that these Western sanctions are essentially inevitable, Russian President Putin called for strengthening “economic sovereignty.”
“There is only one way to overcome this state of affairs – to strengthen ourselves from within, and above all, of course, in the economy,” he said.