German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden will hold talks in the White House on Thursday on a number of bilateral bones of contention, first and foremost being the imminent completion of Nord Stream 2 in the Baltic Sea and the continued use of the Ukraine as a transit route for Russian gas to Europe, which is the American preference.
Officials from both sides are engaged in intense discussions to resolve the issue and stave off the reimposition of sanctions that Biden waived in May. Biden has opposed the project, but he is also facing increasing pressure from U.S. lawmakers to reimpose sanctions.
"Nord Stream 2 is the area where you most realistically can expect progress," said Thorsten Benner of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi). "Merkel may hope to get away with providing guarantees for Ukraine's continued role as a gas transit country and a vague snapback mechanism that would kick in if Russia seeks to cut transit through Ukraine."
An American official said that both sides were continuing to discuss how we can "credibly and concretely ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool to disrupt Ukraine, eastern flank allies or other states."
Merkel, who will step down after an election in September, vowed during a news conference on Monday with visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Germany and the European Union will guarantee Ukraine's status as a transit country.
"We promised Ukraine and will keep our promise," said Merkel. "It is my custom to keep my word and I believe this applies to every future chancellor."