During her farewell visit to the White House on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joe Biden stated they were united against Russian aggression linked to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite disagreements on some specifics of the project.
“good friends can disagree,” Biden said, adding that the two presidents agreed that Russia should not be allowed to use energy to blackmail or otherwise coerce its neighbours, particularly Ukraine.
Biden stated that “good friends can disagree” adding that the two presidents shared the idea that Russia should not be allowed to use energy to coerce or intimidate its neighbors including Ukraine.
“We stand together and will continue to stand together, to defend our eastern flank allies at NATO against Russian aggression,” he said. “And while I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream 2, Chancellor Merkel and I are absolutely united in our conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors.”
The Bien administration sanctioned Russian firms and boats involved in the building of the Russia-to-Germany pipeline in May, but exempted a German company and its CEO from the sanctions.
Merkel stated that the two had “come to different assessments as to what this project entails” but that Germany would respond “should Russia not respect this right of Ukraine that it has as a transit country.”
“Our idea is and remains that Ukraine remains a transit country for natural gas, that Ukraine just as any other country in the world has a right to territorial sovereignty,” she said.
The leaders also agreed on a climate and energy partnership which the White House said will “strengthen climate ambition and deepen our collaboration on the policies and sustainable technologies needed to accelerate the global net-zero future.”
Biden said Merkel brought up a ban on travel from Germany to the United States stating that he had asked his COVID-19 team to determine when it can be lifted.
“It’s in the process now. And I’ll be able to answer that question to you within the next several days, what is likely to happen,” he said.
Merkel said she understood it is important to reflect on such a decision to ensure that it is sustainable.
“It is clearly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days. So I have every confidence in the American COVID team,” she said.
Merkel, Germany’s chancellor since 2005, will step down following the country’s federal election on Sept. 26, which will result in a new leader.
Merkel has also positioned herself as one of the European Union’s stabilising influences and a policymaker on the continent.
Biden quipped that Merkel “knows the Oval Office as well as I do” referring to the fact that she had served alongside US presidents, and said he will miss her friendship and leadership.
“On a personal note, I must tell you I will miss seeing you at our summits,” Biden said. “I truly will.”
Throughout the press conference, Merkel addressed Biden as “Dear Joe” and stated that she and Biden had a “a very friendly exchange.”
Prior to her meeting with Biden, the German leader had a business breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris.
According to the White House, Biden then hosted Merkel for an informal dinner with German advocates and boosters of the bilateral partnership between Germany and the United States.