Nothing Off the Table, EU Responds to Question on Halting Nord Stream 2

(Reuters) — The gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 could be halted should Russia invade Ukraine, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen signaled on Thursday, referring to the not yet operative pipeline meant to transport gas from Russia to Germany.

"I want to be very clear: Nothing is off the table, everything is on the table," von der Leyen told CNN in an interview late on Thursday, responding to a question on whether Nord Stream 2 would be halted if Russia invaded Ukraine.

Diplomatic efforts are continuing to defuse a crisis created by Russia massing some 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders.

"The (European) Commission is responsible for designing, shaping and developing the sanctions (on Russia) - in the financial field, in the economic field, in the technology field," von der Leyen said.

The EU is Russia's biggest trading partner with some 40% of the trade in goods, and the biggest foreign investor in Russia with 75% of foreign direct investment coming from the bloc, she noted.

"These figures tell you that we have a strong leverage and that it would be very painful for Russia" to escalate the aggression against Ukraine, von der Leyen said, adding she was working very closely with U.S. President Joe Biden on a strategic partnership on energy security.

Asked about whether Russia could be cut off from the SWIFT global payment system if it attacked Ukraine, von der Leyen repeated that nothing was off the table. She refused, however, to go into any detail on an EU sanctions package. 

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