He was responding to a servilely posed question about how Biden would turn the page on his predecessor’s infamously adversarial relationship with his European matches.
But if the administration were truly involved in showing America’s global partners that they matter, it would drop its half-hearted approach to dealing with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Last month, the State Department stated that congressionally mandated sanctions aiming at the Russian energy project should apply to the project’s corporate shell and Matthias Warning, the German Kremlin ally who works as its CEO — but that it opted to ignore them, citing America’s national interest.
The Ukrainian government was blindsided, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Axios yesterday, adding that he discovered the decision from media reports (the State Department claimed that it had notified Ukrainian officials in advance). He said his displeasure at the Biden administration’s hesitation to use all of the tools at its power to kill the project has turned into disappointment. “It is not very understandable . . . that the bullets to this weapon can possibly be provided by such a great country as the United States.”
That weaponry — Nord Stream 2 — will give the Kremlin more leverage with which to control Ukraine by rerouting gas from pipelines that would normally pass through the country, and therefore incur Kiev’s transit fees.
The U.S. could end it by sanctioning the European companies involved in its construction — but this would need the Biden administration to target German companies working on it. With the completion last week of the first line of Nord Stream 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine must “show good faith” if Russian gas is to continue to pass through Ukraine to Europe.
By not taking a more rigid position against the pipeline — which is supported by the government of Germany, where it ends — the administration is casting an embattled ally to the wolves. In recent months, Russian military pressure on Ukraine has grown, with Moscow positioning some tens of thousands of troops and an array of military equipment on the two countries’ border.