HELSINKI (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has cautioned Europe against a new natural gas pipeline planned to stretch from Russia to Germany, saying it "looks like a fairly bad deal" for Europe because it further increases its energy dependency on Moscow.
Biden said Thursday that to lock Europe "into greater reliance on Russia at this moment ... will fundamentally destabilize Ukraine," but stressed that European Union leaders must make their own decisions on the issue.
Russian energy giant Gazprom and the EU, which imports a third of its natural gas from Russia, agreed last year on the new pipeline to run parallel to an existing twin pipeline Nord Stream 1, that runs under the Baltic Sea.
After talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in Stockholm, Biden told reporters that Russian gas "can and should be" part of the European market. "But that market needs to be open and needs to be competitive. Everyone has to play by the rules."
The new Nord Stream pipeline bypasses both Ukraine and Slovakia, traditional transit countries for supplies pumped by Gazprom, depriving them of substantial transit fees, and price wars between Russia and Ukraine have interrupted supplies to the EU in the past.
In an apparent reference to Russia, Biden said: "No country should be able to use energy as a weapon ... to coerce policies from other nations."
Biden's trip to Sweden came at the end of a three-day tour when he also visited Latvia and Turkey.
This story has been corrected to show the accurate spelling of the prime minister's first name is Stefan, not Stephan.