U.S. President Joe Biden said a crucial European gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, will not go forward if Russia invades Ukraine, as high-level diplomatic efforts took place Monday to try to prevent an invasion, with Germany’s leader traveling to Washington and France’s president to Moscow.
Biden told reporters at the White House on Monday after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, “the notion that Nord Stream 2 would go forward” in the event of an invasion by Russian tanks or troops is “just not going to happen.”
“I promise you we will be able to do that,” Biden said when asked how he could make that happen.
Scholz did not directly say whether Germany would cancel the pipeline project but said, “We will take all the necessary steps, and all will be done together” with the United States and other allies.
He said, “We have prepared a reaction that will help us to react swiftly if needed” in the event of a Russian invasion. He said Germany would not “spell out everything in public.”
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, running under the Baltic Sea, is designed to bring Russian natural gas to Germany. The pipeline was recently completed but is not yet operational.
The U.S., among others, has viewed putting the brakes on the pipeline as part of the deterrence of a Russian attack on Ukraine, eliminating potential Russian revenue from the pipeline.
Addressing reporters Monday, Biden also urged Americans in Ukraine to leave the country, saying, “It would be wise” for them to do so.
The U.S. State Department has already said nonessential employees in Ukraine could leave the country along with family members.
At the outset of their discussions, Scholz, who took power in Berlin in December, and Biden emphasized the close relationship between their two countries. But they have taken different approaches in assisting Ukraine, with the United States sending weapons to the Kyiv government, and Germany sending 5,000 military helmets Ukraine requested, while adhering to its long-held position of not shipping arms into a conflict zone.
Biden, nonetheless, said the two countries are “working in lockstep” to “further deter Russian aggression in Europe.”
“We are closest allies and working intensely together. And this is necessary for doing the steps that we have to do, for instance, fighting against Russian aggression against Ukraine,” Scholz said.
Meanwhile in Moscow, French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, trying to curb the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Putin said after the talks that Russia would do its best "to find compromises" in the crisis with the West over Ukraine and said, "As far as we are concerned, we will do everything to find compromises that suit everyone."
He said there would be "no winners" if war broke out on the European continent.
At the start of their meeting, Macron told Putin, "This discussion can make a start in the direction in which we need to go, which is towards a de-escalation" to "avoid a war" and "build elements of confidence, stability and visibility for everyone."
The Kremlin had said ahead of the talks that it did not expect any immediate resolution of its stalemate with the West.
Macron said following the talks that he and Putin would speak again in a couple of days. The French president heads to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian leaders on Tuesday.
Moscow has deployed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia and in its ally, Belarus, with the West fearing that Putin could at any time order an invasion of Moscow’s one-time Soviet republic.
France, the United States and their NATO allies have rejected Moscow’s demand that they rule out possible Ukraine membership in the Western military alliance formed after World War II.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday Putin continued to add to his troop numbers along the borders with Ukraine over the weekend.
"Sizable forces continue to be added to the forces Mr. Putin has arrayed,” Kirby told reporters. "With each passing day, he gives himself a lot more options from a military perspective."
The United States has warned that a Russian invasion “could happen at any time,” according to U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
“We believe that the Russians have put in place the capabilities to mount a significant military operation into Ukraine, and we have been working hard to prepare a response,” Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show on Sunday.
In a separate interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Sullivan said, “Any day, Russia could take action against Ukraine, or it could be a couple weeks,” with U.S. intelligence officials assessing that Moscow has 70% of its strike force in place for an attack.
Biden has ruled out dispatching the U.S. military to fight in Ukraine, but now has deployed 3,000 U.S. troops to Romania and Poland on NATO’s eastern edge and sent $500 million in military assistance to the Kyiv government.
Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters.