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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday became the first European leader to meet President Biden at the White House, where they discussed the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that will go from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Biden has shared his concerns over the pipeline, which is nearly complete, saying it will make Europe more reliant on Russian gas and puts Russia in a position where it can place pressure on Ukraine. During their joint press conference on Thursday, Merkel said the “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.” Germany, she added, will take action “should Russia not respect this right of Ukraine that it has as a transit country.”
They both agreed that Russia can’t be allowed to weaponize energy. “We stand together and will continue to stand together to defend our eastern flank allies at NATO against Russian aggression,” Biden said. The leaders also spoke about the coronavirus pandemic, with Biden saying he has asked the head of his coronavirus task force for an idea of when Europeans might be able to freely travel again to the U.S.
Merkel is the second-longest-serving chancellor in German history, and will not be seeking re-election in September. Biden told Merkel that “on a personal note, I will miss seeing you at our summits. I truly will.” He praised the “cooperation” between Germany and the United States, saying it is “strong and we hope to continue that, and I’m confident that we will.” Merkel agreed, adding, “I value the friendship.”