Treasury Secretary Yellen Looks to Get Global Tax Deal Back on Track

“I think the reality of turning a political commitment into binding domestic legislation is a lot more complex,” said Manal Corwin, a Treasury official in the Obama administration who now heads the Washington national tax practice at KPMG. “The E.U. has moved and gotten over most of the objections, but they still have Poland and it’s not clear whether they’re going to be able to get the last vote.”

With President Emmanuel Macron of France heading the European Union’s rotating presidency until June, his administration was eager to get a deal implemented. But at a meeting of European finance ministers in early April, Poland became the sole holdout, saying there were no ironclad guarantees that big multinational companies wouldn’t still be able to take advantage of low-tax jurisdictions if the two parts of the agreement did not move ahead in tandem, undercutting the global effort to avoid a race to the bottom when it comes to corporate taxation.

Poland’s stance was sharply criticized by European officials, particularly France, whose finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, suggested that Warsaw was instead holding up a final accord in retaliation for a Europe-wide political dispute. Poland has threatened to veto measures requiring unanimous E.U. votes because of an earlier decision by Brussels to block pandemic recovery funds for Poland.

The European Union had refused to disburse billions in aid to Poland since late last year, citing separate concerns over Warsaw’s interference with the independence of its judicial system. Last week, on the eve of Ms. Yellen’s visit to Poland, the European Commission came up with an 11th-hour deal unlocking 36 billion euros in pandemic recovery funds for Poland, which pledged to meet certain milestones such as judiciary and economic reforms, in return for the money.

Negotiators from around the world have been working for months to resolve technical details of the agreement, such as what kinds of income would be subject to the new taxes and how the deal would be enforced. Failure to finalize the agreement would likely mean the further proliferation of the digital services taxes that European countries have imposed on American technology giants, much to the dismay of those firms and the Biden administration, which has threatened to impose tariffs on nations that adopt their own levies.

“It’s fluid, it’s moving, it’s a moving target,” Pascal Saint-Amans, the director of the center for tax policy and administration at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said of the negotiations at the D.C. Bar’s annual tax conference this month. “There is an extremely ambitious timeline.”

Countries like Ireland, with a historically low corporate tax rate, have been wary of increasing their rates if others do not follow suit, so it has been important to ensure that there is a common understanding of the new tax rules to avoid opening the door to new loopholes.

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How the Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder Became Putin’s Man in Germany

But it was more than that, Mr. Schröder said. “I had been chancellor. I couldn’t go back to being a lawyer dealing with rental contracts. I needed a project,” he said. “Something I knew how to do and where I could serve German interests.”

When Mr. Putin called Mr. Schröder on his cellphone the night of Dec. 9, 2005, he accepted the offer.

Many in Germany were appalled. No chancellor before him had taken a job in a company controlled by a foreign country, let alone one that had benefited from their support in office.

But the pipeline project itself remained uncontroversial.

“The next government continued with it seamlessly,” Mr. Schröder recalled. “Nobody in the first Merkel government said a word against it. No one!”

Mr. Ischinger, who was Mr. Schröder’s ambassador to the United States and later ran the Munich Security Conference, concurred.

“You can’t blame Schröder for Nord Stream 1,” Mr. Ischinger said. “Most German politicians, whether in government or in opposition, did not critically question this. No one asked whether we were laying the foundation for getting ourselves into an unhealthy dependence.”

Ms. Merkel, through a spokesperson, declined to comment for this article.

Nord Stream 1 took six years to plan and build. In 2011, Mr. Schröder attended both opening ceremonies — one on the Russian end, in Vyborg, along with Mr. Putin, Russia’s prime minister at the time, and the other on the German end, in Lubmin, on the Baltic Sea, along with Ms. Merkel and Mr. Putin’s trusted ally, Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s president at the time.

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Amid Sanctions, Putin Reminds the World of His Own Economic Weapons

LONDON — In the five weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and their allies began an economic counteroffensive that has cut off Russia’s access to hundreds of billions of dollars of its own money and halted a large chunk of its international commerce. More than 1,000 companies, organizations and individuals, including members of President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, have been sanctioned and relegated to a financial limbo.

But Mr. Putin reminded the world this past week that he has economic weapons of his own that he could use to inflict some pain or fend off attacks.

Through a series of aggressive measures taken by the Russian government and its central bank, the ruble, which had lost nearly half of its value, clawed its way back to near where it was before the invasion.

And then there was the threat to stop the flow of gas from Russia to Europe — which was set off by Mr. Putin’s demand that 48 “unfriendly countries” violate their own sanctions and pay for natural gas in rubles. It sent leaders in the capitals of Germany, Italy and other allied nations scrambling and showcased in the most visible way since the war began how much they need Russian energy to power their economies.

Russian oil exports normally represent more than one of every 10 barrels the world consumes.

Europe’s ongoing energy purchases send as much as $850 million each day into Russia’s coffers, according to Bruegel, an economics institute in Brussels. That money helps Russia to fund its war efforts and blunts the impact of sanctions. Because of soaring energy prices, gas export revenues from Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, injected $9.3 billion into the country’s economy in March alone, according an estimate by Oxford Economics, a global advisory firm.

Ursula von der Leyen, said as much when she announced the new energy plan last month: “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”

Security concerns aren’t the only development that has undermined Russia’s standing as a long-term energy supplier. What seemed surprising to economists, lawyers and policymakers about Mr. Putin’s demand to be paid in rubles was that it would have violated sacrosanct negotiated contracts and revealed Russia’s willingness to be an unreliable business partner.

As he has tried to wield his energy clout externally, Mr. Putin has taken steps to insulate Russia’s economy from the impact of sanctions and to prop up the ruble. Few things can undermine a country as systemically as an abruptly weakened currency.

When the allies froze the assets of the Russian central bank and sent the ruble into a downward spiral, the bank increased the interest rate to 20 percent, while the government mandated that companies convert 80 percent of the dollars, euros and other foreign currencies they earn into rubles to increase demand and drive up the price.

S&P Global survey of purchasing managers at Russian manufacturing companies showed severe declines in production, employment and new orders in March, as well as sharp price increases.

500 foreign companies have pulled up stakes in Russia, scaled back operations and investment, or pledged to do so.

“Russia does not have the capabilities to replicate domestically the technology that it would otherwise have gained from overseas,” according to an analysis by Capital Economics, a research group based in London. That is not a good sign for increasing productivity, which even before the war, was only 35 to 40 percent of the United States’.

The result is that however the war in Ukraine ends, Russia will be more economically isolated than it has been in decades, diminishing whatever leverage it now has over the global economy as well as its own economic prospects.

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Why the Chinese Internet Is Cheering Russia’s Invasion

The countries’ friendship has “no limits,” they declared.

Given that the leaders met just weeks before the invasion, it would be understandable to conclude that China should have had better knowledge of the Kremlin’s plans. But growing evidence suggests that the echo chamber of China’s foreign policy establishment might have misled not only the country’s internet users, but its own officials.

My colleague Edward Wong reported that over a period of three months, senior U.S. officials held meetings with their Chinese counterparts and shared intelligence that detailed Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine. The Americans asked the Chinese officials to intervene with the Russians and tell them not to invade.

The Chinese brushed the Americans off, saying that they did not think an invasion was in the works. U.S. intelligence showed that on one occasion, Beijing shared the Americans’ information with Moscow.

Recent speeches by some of China’s most influential advisers to the government on international relations suggest that the miscalculation may have been based on deep distrust of the United States. They saw it as a declining power that wanted to push for war with false intelligence because it would benefit the United States, financially and strategically.

Jin Canrong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told the state broadcaster China Central Television, or CCTV, on Feb. 20 that the U.S. government had been talking about imminent war because an unstable Europe would help Washington, as well the country’s financial and energy industries. After the war started, he admitted to his 2.4 million Weibo followers that he was surprised.

Just before the invasion, Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, ridiculed the Biden administration’s predictions of war in a 52-minute video program. “Why did ‘Sleepy Joe’ use such poor-quality intelligence on Ukraine and Russia?” he asked, using Donald Trump’s favorite nickname for President Biden.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Shen had held a conference call about the Ukraine crisis with a brokerage’s clients, titled, “A war that would not be fought.”

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Russia and China Cemented Economic Ties Before Ukraine Invasion

“If they don’t comply with the U.S., they’re in trouble with the U.S., but if they don’t comply with China, they could also face penalties in China,” he said.

Of course, collecting fines from companies that are unwilling to pay and monitoring whether businesses comply with the rules could be difficult, Mr. Chorzempa added. “It’s already proving difficult to monitor the things that are already controlled, and if you expand that list, that’s going to be a real challenge to verify what’s going to Russia,” he said.

The Biden administration’s export controls apply to goods produced in any country as long as they use U.S. technology — including chip makers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and the Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing Industry Corporation.

Both of those companies continue to rely on the United States for certain components and manufacturing technology, said Gabriel Wildau, a managing director at Teneo, a consulting firm. If they continue supplying to Russia, SMIC and other Chinese companies could be cut off from U.S. technology, the same kind of penalty that crippled Huawei. On Friday, Taiwan Semiconductor said it was committed to complying with the export controls.

“If Beijing is viewed as Moscow’s enabler, pressure will rise in the U.S. Congress to extend these restrictions,” Mr. Wildau wrote in a note to clients. Beijing would also face the risk that other major technology exporters, like Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands, “would adopt Washington’s tougher line,” he said.

China’s state-owned banks could also face risks for continuing to lend to Russia. China and Russia have been settling more of their trade using the renminbi and the ruble. Beijing has also been trying to develop the digital use of its currency as an alternative to the dollar, which could help Russia limit the effect of financial sanctions.

But Chinese banks are still deeply reliant on the U.S. dollar. While major Chinese banks already appeared to be pulling back their financing for Russia, Mr. Wildau said, Beijing could choose to support Russia using smaller state-owned banks that don’t do a lot of international business that requires the use of the dollar.

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In Ukraine Crisis, the Looming Threat of a New Cold War

MOSCOW — Vladimir Pozner was an English-language Soviet propaganda editor in Moscow in 1962, a job that gave him rare access to American newspapers and magazines. That allowed him to follow the Cuban Missile Crisis outside the Soviet media filter, and sense a world at the brink of war.

Mr. Pozner, a longtime Russian television journalist, says he now feels something similar.

“The smell of war is very strong,” he said in an interview on Friday, a day when shelling intensified along the front line in eastern Ukraine. “If we talk about the relationship between Russia and the West — and in particular, the United States — I feel that it is as bad as it was at any time in the Cold War, and perhaps, in a certain sense, even worse.”

Unlike 1962, it is not the threat of nuclear war but of a major land war that now looms over Europe. But the feeling that Russia and the United States are entering a new version of the Cold War — long posited by some commentators on both sides of the Atlantic — has become inescapable.

President Biden hinted at it on Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, pledging that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “we will rally the world to oppose its aggression.” President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia drove the matter home on Saturday, when he oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles that can evade American defenses.

whether Mr. Putin is staging an elaborate, expensive bluff or is truly on the verge of launching the biggest military offensive in Europe since 1945. But it does appear clear that Mr. Putin’s overarching aim is to revise the outcome of the original Cold War, even if it is at the cost of deepening a new one.

Mr. Putin is seeking to undo a European security order created when his country was weak and vulnerable after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and to recreate the sort of geopolitical buffer zone that Russian rulers over the centuries have felt they needed. He is signaling that he is prepared to accomplish this by diplomatic means, but also through the use of force.

The crisis has already brought Mr. Putin some tactical wins as well as perilous risks. Since first mounting a threatening troop buildup on Ukraine’s borders last spring, he has managed to seize Washington’s attention — a goal for a Kremlin that, as in the Cold War, sees confrontation with the United States as its defining conflict. But his actions have also spurred anti-Russian attitudes and further united Europe and the United States against Russia — something that should worry the Kremlin given the West’s still-far-greater global economic and political might.

now looms as the more serious strategic adversary in the long term.

But to Mr. Putin, the fight to roll back his country’s defeat in the original Cold War has already lasted at least 15 years. He declared his rejection of an America-led world order in his speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, warning of “unexploded ordnance” left behind from the Cold War: “ideological stereotypes” and “double standards” that allowed Washington to rule the world while crimping Russia’s development.

This weekend, in one of the many ominous developments of recent days, Russia is skipping the Munich conference — an annual meeting at which Western officials have been able to sit down with their Russian counterparts throughout the prior tensions of Mr. Putin’s rule.

Instead, the Kremlin released footage of Mr. Putin in the Kremlin’s situation room, directing test launches of its modernized arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles from bombers, submarines and land-based launchers. It was a carefully timed reminder that, as Russian television recently told viewers, the country can turn American cities “into radioactive ash.”

And Mr. Putin has massed a monumental force to Ukraine’s north, east and south in order to signal that the Kremlin sees the former Soviet republic’s pro-Western shift as such a dire threat that it is willing to fight a war to stop it. The confrontation in some ways evokes the Berlin crisis of 1961, when the Soviets demanded that Western forces leave Berlin, and East Germany eventually built the wall that divided East and West. To some Russians, the fact that Ukraine is much closer to Russia than Berlin is what makes the new Cold War even more dangerous.

“Back then, the frontier ran through Berlin,” said Mr. Suslov, the Moscow analyst. “Now the frontier goes through Kharkiv” — a Ukrainian city on the Russian border that is a day’s drive from Moscow.

The Cold War may also offer parallels for what could happen within Russia in the event of war. Analysts predict an even more authoritarian swing by the Kremlin, and an even more ruthless hunt for internal enemies purportedly sponsored by the West. Mr. Pozner, a state television host who was born in Paris, grew up in part in New York and moved to Moscow in 1952, posited that Russia’s foes in the West could even be quietly hoping for war because it could weaken and discredit the country.

“I’m very worried,” Mr. Pozner said. “A Russian invasion of Ukraine is a catastrophe for Russia, first and foremost, in the sense of Russia’s reputation and what’s going to go on inside Russia as a result.”

Some Russian analysts think Mr. Putin could still de-escalate the crisis and walk away with a tactical victory. The threat of war has started a discussion in Ukraine and in the West about the idea that Kyiv may disavow NATO membership. And the United States has already offered talks on a number of initiatives that Moscow is interested in, including on the placement of missiles in Europe and on limiting long-range bomber flights.

But Mr. Putin is making clear he wants more than that: a wide-ranging, legally binding agreement to unwind the NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

The intensity of the crisis that Mr. Putin has engineered is evident in the harsh language that the Kremlin has deployed. Standing this month alongside President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin said President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine had no choice but to carry out a 2015 peace plan that Russia was pushing: “You may like it, you may not like it — deal with it, my gorgeous.” Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, in a joint news conference with his visiting British counterpart, Liz Truss, said their discussion had resembled that of a “mute person with a deaf person.”

“Sometimes discussions were rather heated between Soviet and American leaders,” said Pavel Palazhchenko, a former Soviet diplomat. “But probably not to that extent and not as publicly as now. There is really no parallel.”

Mr. Palazhchenko, who translated for the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in his summits with American presidents, describes that language as an outgrowth of a Russian frustration with the country’s security concerns being ignored. During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow came together over landmark arms control agreements. During the Putin era, little of that has happened.

“This is a clear emotional and psychological reaction to the years and even decades of the West and the U.S. being rather dismissive of Russian security concerns,” Mr. Palazhchenko said.

Doug Lute, a former American ambassador to NATO, rejects the notion of past disrespect for Russian interests, especially given that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is “the only existential threat to the United States in the world.” But like Mr. Palazhchenko, he also sees lessons in the Cold War for emerging from the current crisis.

“It may be that we settle into a period where we have dramatically different worldviews or dramatically different ambitions but even despite that political contest, there’s space to do things in our mutual interest,” Mr. Lute said. “The Cold War could be a model for competing and cooperating at the same time.”

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Vladimir Putin: Crafty Strategist or Aggrieved and Reckless Leader?

MOSCOW — At this moment of crescendo for the Ukraine crisis, it all comes down to what kind of leader President Vladimir V. Putin is.

In Moscow, many analysts remain convinced that the Russian president is essentially rational, and that the risks of invading Ukraine would be so great that his huge troop buildup makes sense only as a very convincing bluff. But some also leave the door open to the idea that he has fundamentally changed amid the pandemic, a shift that may have left him more paranoid, more aggrieved and more reckless.

The 20-foot-long table that Mr. Putin has used to socially distance himself this month from European leaders flying in for crisis talks symbolizes, to some longtime observers, his detachment from the rest of the world. For almost two years, Mr. Putin has ensconced himself in a virus-free cocoon unlike that of any Western leader, with state television showing him holding most key meetings by teleconference alone in a room and keeping even his own ministers at a distance on the rare occasions that he summons them in person.

Speculation over a leader’s mental state is always fraught, but as Mr. Putin’s momentous decision approaches, Moscow commentators puzzling over what he might do next in Ukraine are finding some degree of armchair psychology hard to avoid.

capture Crimea without firing a single shot. The proxy war that Mr. Putin fomented in Ukraine’s east allowed him to deny being a party to the conflict.

“Starting a full-scale war is completely not in Putin’s interest,” said Anastasia Likhacheva, the dean of world economy and international affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It is very difficult for me to find any rational explanation for a desire to carry out such a campaign.”

Even if Mr. Putin were able to take control of Ukraine, she noted, such a war would accomplish the opposite of what the president says he wants: rolling back the NATO presence in Eastern Europe. In the case of a war, the NATO allies would be “more unified than ever,” Ms. Likhacheva said, and they would be likely to deploy powerful new weaponry along Russia’s western frontiers.

as an existential threat to his country, said that Moscow’s growing military presence on the Ukrainian border was a response to Ukraine’s deepening partnership with the alliance.

Given that such a war still seems unthinkable and irrational to so many in Moscow, Russian foreign policy experts generally see the standoff over Ukraine as the latest stage in Mr. Putin’s yearslong effort to compel the West to accept what he sees as fundamental Russian security concerns. In the 1990s, that thinking goes, the West forced a new European order upon a weak Russia that disregarded its historical need for a geopolitical buffer zone to its west. And now that Russia is stronger, these experts say, it would be reasonable for any Kremlin leader to try to redraw that map.

few Moscow analysts were predicting a military intervention. And skeptics of the view that Mr. Putin is bluffing point out that during the pandemic, he has already taken actions that earlier seemed unlikely. His harsh crackdown against the network of Aleksei A. Navalny, for example, has contradicted what had been a widely held view that Mr. Putin was happy to allow some domestic dissent as an escape valve to manage discontent.

“Putin, in the last year, has crossed a lot of Rubicons,” Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute based in Arlington, Va., said last week. “Folks who believe that something this dramatic is unlikely or improbable may not have observed that qualitative shift in the last two years.”

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Britain Says Moscow Is Plotting to Install a Pro-Russian Leader in Ukraine

KYIV — The British government said Saturday that the Kremlin was developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine — and had already chosen a potential candidate — as President Vladimir V. Putin weighs whether to order the Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s border to attack.

The highly unusual public communiqué by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, issued late at night in London, comes at a moment of high-stakes diplomacy between the Kremlin and the West. Russia has deployed more than 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders that could, according to American officials, attack at any moment.

“The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking,” Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement. “Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.”

The British announcement was the second time in just over a week that a Western power had publicly accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, part of a concerted effort to pressure Mr. Putin to de-escalate. On Jan. 14, the United States accused the Kremlin of sending saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to create a provocation that could serve as a pretext for invasion.

posted a photo of himself to Facebook posing as James Bond with the comment, “Details tomorrow.”

Russian spies maintain extensive networks of agents in Ukraine and contacts between Ukrainian officials and intelligence officers are not uncommon, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials

All four of the other Ukrainians named in the communiqué once held senior positions in the Ukrainian government and worked in proximity to Paul Manafort, former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign manager, when he worked as a political adviser to Ukraine’s former Russian-backed president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. After Mr. Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014, they fled to Russia.

One of those named, Vladimir Sivkovich, was among four Ukrainians targeted last week with sanctions by the United States Treasury Department for their ties to Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine.

If the British assessment is accurate, it would not be the first time the Kremlin tried to install a pro-Russian leader or interfere in Ukraine’s government. In 2004, Russian efforts to fraudulently sway a presidential election set off what became known as the Orange Revolution, which forced a redo election that led to the defeat of Mr. Yanukovych, who was the Kremlin’s favored candidate.

In 2013, when the Kremlin pressured Mr. Yanukovych, who eventually was elected president, to back out of a trade pact with the European Union, Ukrainians again poured into the streets. Mr. Yanukovych was eventually driven from power, prompting Mr. Putin to order the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and instigate a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied any intention of launching an attack against Ukraine, dismissing such accusations as “hysteria” and claiming without providing evidence that it is the government in Kyiv that is seeking to escalate tensions. Even so the buildup of Russian troops on the border has continued. At least 127,000 soldiers now surround Ukraine to the north, east and west, Ukraine’s military intelligence service says, with additional troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District now pouring into neighboring Belarus.

The standoff is redolent of an old-fashioned Cold War showdown between Moscow and the West, with both sides trading accusations of war mongering and jockeying for geopolitical advantage. Though the confrontational tone was muted when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met his Russian counterpart for the latest round of talks in Geneva on Friday, there is as yet no end in sight.

Britain’s unusual disclosure comes at a time when it is trying to assert itself in the crisis on military and diplomatic fronts. It has delivered shipments of antitank weapons to the Ukrainian military, dispatched its senior ministers to NATO countries under threat from Russia and begun to engage directly with Russia.

Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, accepted an invitation from his Russian counterpart, Sergei K. Shoigu, to meet in Moscow, while the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, may meet with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.

The disclosure also comes amid a swirling political scandal over Downing Street garden parties in 2020 that violated lockdown restrictions, which has mushroomed to such a degree that it threatens Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hold on power.

Critics have suggested that Mr. Johnson may try to exploit the tensions with Russia — and Britain’s more assertive diplomatic and military role — as a way to deflect attention from his political woes.

Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting from Washington and Maria Varenikova reported from Kyiv.

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On Ukraine, Biden Flusters European Allies by Stating the Obvious

Her party leader and chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has been more circumspect, saying after a meeting with the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, on Tuesday that Germany was ready to discuss halting the pipeline should Russia attack Ukraine. “It is clear that there will be a high price to pay and that everything will have to be discussed should there be a military intervention in Ukraine,” Mr. Scholz said.

The issue is sensitive for Washington, too. Last week, at NATO, Wendy R. Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, said: “From our perspective, it’s very hard to see gas flowing through the pipeline or for it to become operational if Russia renews its aggression on Ukraine.”

But the divisions are precisely why her boss, the secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, is in Berlin on Thursday to talk to the German government and to senior diplomats from Britain and the so-called Normandy Format on Ukraine — France and Germany.

Set up in 2014 after the commemoration of D-Day in Normandy, the group includes Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, but not the United States, because at the time President Barack Obama wanted to leave Ukraine to the Europeans.

Some consider that to have been a mistake, and there are discussions now about whether the United States should also join to try to de-escalate the current crisis. Negotiations produced the Minsk accords, which both Russia and Ukraine accuse the other of violating, and which Russia continues to say hold the key to the Ukrainian crisis.

Further divisions were on display on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, where Emmanuel Macron, the French president, gave a long speech to the European Parliament setting out his priorities for the French presidency of the European Union — and implicitly for his own re-election campaign with voting in April.

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