The German government refuses to give up on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project that will transport gas from Russia directly to Germany. A number of European countries and the United States, in particular, oppose the pipeline, which is now almost complete, because they fear it will make Berlin too dependent on Moscow.

In a break with his official German party line, Gahler said he believes Berlin’s backing for the project was a “mistake from the outset.” Yet, at the same time, he added that the German position towards Nord Stream 2 “does not stand in the way of a credible negotiating role because everyone knows internationally that we do not stand equidistant between Ukraine and Russia.”

Moscow, said Gahler, is the only government to have violated international law and it has “troops and mercenaries on the other country’s territory.” Germany clearly sees “Russia as the guilty party.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been the driving force in the Normandy talks, but as she plans to step down after the next parliamentary elections in September, she is regarded as a “lame duck” in foreign policy terms. Other senior members of Germany’s governing coalition have remained guarded when it comes to the question of Ukraine.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer emphasized that “Ukraine knows that it can depend on us.” During her meeting with her French counterpart, Florence Parly, Kramp-Karrenbauer did not, however, spell out exactly what Kyiv could depend upon them for.

Significantly, Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ candidate to succeed Merkel, called for more Normandy format negotiations. Baerbock called Nord Stream 2 a “geostrategic error” in an interview at the Munich Security Conference in February, adding that, “This pipeline was hugely instrumentalized as a possible means of destabilizing Ukraine.”