President Vladimir Putin on Friday vowed to oppose any actions from the Trump administration targeting Nord Stream 2, a pipeline project expected to significantly increase Russia’s natural gas exports to Europe.
Mr. Putin defended the project in the wake of news outlets reporting this week that President Trump has pressured German Chancellor Angela Merkel to withdraw her support for the pipeline in lieu of possibly provoking a transatlantic trade war.
“Donald is not just the U.S. president, he’s also a good, tough entrepreneur,” Mr. Putin said at a joint news conference held with Ms. Merkel in Sochi, The Moscow Times reported.
“He’s promoting the interests of his business, to ensure the sales of liquefied natural gas on the European market,” Mr. Putin added. “I understand the U.S. president. He’s defending the interests of his business, he wants to push his product on the European market. But it depends on us, how we build our relations with our partners, it will depend on our partners in Europe.”
“We believe it (the pipeline) is beneficial for us, we will fight for it,” said Mr. Putin.
The pipeline is expected to transport upwards of 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Russia to Germany beginning in 2019, doubling Russia’s current exports and consequently reducing Germany’s demand for resources from competing countries.
Mr. Trump urged Ms. Merkel in April to withdraw support for the pipeline in exchange for kickstarting a new trade deal between the U.S. European Union, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing U.S. and European officials.
The U.S., German and their allies have been at odds with Russia particularly after Mr. Putin’s government annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, though leaders in both Berlin and D.C. have advocated for being on better terms with Moscow as of late.
“We have a strategic interest in having good relations with Russia” Ms. Merkel said Friday.