WASHINGTON: With German Chancellor Olaf Scholz standing beside him, US President Joe Biden warned on Monday that Washington would shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is poised to supply Russian gas to Germany “if Russian tanks or troops cross the border into Ukraine again”. The threat — which Scholz did not directly endorse aside from pledging to work with the US — came even as French President Emmanuel Macron failed to convince Russian President Vlamidir Putin during talks in Moscow to back down from a military build up on the Ukraine border, which in Washington’s eyes presages an imminent invasion. Russia has rubbished the US assessment that an invasion is imminent, but left little doubt that it will maintain a strong military posture as long as the US and Nato allies do not commit to pull back Nato expansion to its borders, including an undertaking that Ukraine will not be drafted in the group. In an effort to assuage Moscow, the US has indicated informally that Ukraine’s membership of Nato is not immediately on the cards, but Russia wants a formal commitment. On Monday, Biden even indicated that US had accepted Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory so far, saying US retaliation would come if Russia invades the border of Ukraine again. But Russia remained unimpressed, with Putin apparently seeking ironclad guarantees from Macron. “Do you understand it or not, that if Ukraine joins Nato and attempts to bring Crimea back by military means, the European countries will be automatically pulled into a war conflict with Russia?” Putin said in Moscow, talking up Russian nu- clear prowess, which he claimed outperforms the West’s in some ways. “There will be no winners. And you will be pulled into this conflict against your will,” Putin warned, even as his aides later shot down French claims that he had agreed to reel back war games and deployments on the border. Macron later left for talks in Kyiv, and Scholz is scheduled to go to Moscow next week for more talks. Some US analysts have expressed suspicion that Germany is not fully on board in Nato’s stand against Moscow because of its energy dependency on Russia. But Biden pushed back at suggestions, asserting, “Germany is completely reliable. ”

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