In a call this week between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the two reportedly had heated disagreements on topics including NATO, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, and relations with China, according to an unnamed senior US official, cited by POLITICO.
Donald Trump, writes the outlet, has repeatedly criticised Germany, and Chancellor Merkel specifically, over issues such as Berlin's defence spending and commitment to NATO, while Merkel, in turn, publicly took issue with the Washington administration's “unilateral approach” to a succession of foreign policy issues.
There has been no official comment from the White House or the German government on the report.
The information comes as Angela Merkel turned down Donald Trump’s invitation to attend a G-7 summit, citing considerations linked with the overall COVID-19 pandemic situation.
"The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G-7 summit at the end of June in Washington... As of today, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told POLITICO on Friday.
The Nord Stream 2 Debate
Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture between Russia's Gazprom and five European companies, with the 745-mile-long twin pipeline scheduled to carry up to 1.942 trillion cubic feet of gas per year from Russia to Germany through the territorial waters or exclusive economic zones of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Russia, and Sweden.
Objections to the project have been repeatedly voiced by the US, which is trying to promote its liquefied natural gas within the European market, as well as several European nations, who claim it will give Moscow leverage over the EU.
Washington imposed sanctions on the project in December 2019, and Swiss contractor Allseas almost immediately suspended the construction of the gas pipeline.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January that the pipeline should be finished by the first quarter of 2011 at the latest.
Akademik Cherskiy, a Russian pipe-laying vessel belonging to the nation's gas giant Gazprom, was summoned from the Sea of Japan in February 2020, soon after Nord Stream 2 AG, the pipeline's operator and builder, ran into troubles finishing the project due to the US sanctions.
The pipelaying vessel 'Akademik Cherskiy' has entered the Baltic Sea after a long trip from Russia's Far East. It is tasked with finishing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. Western partners withdrew from the project under threat of U.S. sanctions. pic.twitter.com/8EdF2MGsRk— Hans de Vreij (@hdevreij) May 1, 2020
Key members of the project, including Germany, insist that the venture is purely economic in nature, with Berlin announcing it is not planning to respond to any US sanctions placed on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, according to a 4 May document from Germany’s Federal Cabinet.
Russia regards any sanctions against Nord Stream 2 project as unfair competition and a violation of international law, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on 28 May, emphasising that Russia's plans to complete the project remain firmly on track.
"Our attitude to any sanction exercises is well known. This attitude does not change, it is extremely negative," Peskov said.
The statement came in the wake of an interview for German newspaper Handelsblatt by US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who said the US Congress could approve fresh sanctions against Nord Stream 2 to prevent the commissioning of the pipeline, warning that companies that provide technical maintenance of the pipeline could potentially face fines.