By okaying Nord Stream 2, Joe Biden has put the western alliance in jeopardy
Rather than strengthening the Western alliance, the president has placed it in far greater jeopardy
CON COUGHLIN. DEFENCE EDITOR. 25 July 2021 •
Russian President Vladimir Putin must be rather confused about the mixed messaging he is getting from the Biden administration. It was only last month, on the eve of the G7 summit, that US President Joe Biden was talking tough about confronting the Kremlin’s constant efforts to undermine the West, warning that Russia faced “robust and meaningful” consequences.
At his first summit with the Russian leader in Geneva a few days later, he boasted that he was meeting Mr Putin “to let him know what I want him to know.” For good measure, the US, together with allies such as Britain, staged a military show of force in the Black Sea, which involved the Royal Navy’s Type-45 destroyer HMS Defender sailing close to the disputed Crimean peninsula to deter further acts of Russian aggression.
And yet, little more than a month later, the American president has done a complete U-turn by agreeing a deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to complete construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipelinefrom Russia to Germany.
Not only does the agreement reverse Washington’s long-standing opposition to the project, which will provide Moscow with the ability to dominate Europe’s future energy supplies, it also represents a blatant betrayal of Washington’s so-called allies in Eastern Europe which believe they will be far more vulnerable to Moscow’s bully-boy tactics if Russia no longer has to rely on them to supply energy to Western Europe.
Once the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is 98 percent finished and will carry gas from Russia’s Arctic region to Germany through the Baltic Sea, becomes operational, Russia will cease depending upon on countries like Ukraine and Poland for transit rights to supply Western Europe with energy, which, as Republican opponents of the pipeline have argued, leaves them dangerously exposed. This is particularly true of Ukraine, a country constantly menaced by Mr Putin and which a number of Nato members, including the US and Britain, are committed to defending.
In a joint statement, the governments of Poland and Ukraine said that Mr Biden’s decision “has created a political, military and energy threat for Ukraine and Central Europe, while increasing Russia’s potential to destabilise the security situation in Europe, perpetuating divisions among Nato and European Union member states.”
If that is the case, then why on earth has Mr Biden placed the security of the Western alliance in such obvious peril?
The justification Mr Biden offered is both confused and illogical. Washington says that while, in principle, it remains opposed to the pipeline, it believes maintaining that position, especially as the pipeline is almost completed, “risked undermining a critical alliance with Germany, as well as with the EU and other allies.”
But how reliable are the Germans, at least from Washington’s perspective, as allies in the first place? Mrs Merkel enjoys a strange relationship with Mr Putin, always seeking to excuse his behaviour and giving him the benefit of the doubt. The entire German political establishment seems to have a blind spot so far as the Kremlin is concerned. Former Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has made a fortune sitting on the boards of several Russian energy companies, including Nord Stream 2, and is so close to Mr Putin that he refused to accept that Russia was behind the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Germany’s pro-Kremlin stance has even put it at odds with the EU, which has belatedly woken up to the threat Mr Putin poses and is seeking to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, not increase it, as will be the case when the pipeline comes on stream.
Nor should any credence be given to Moscow’s insistence that it will not use energy to blackmail its neighbours. Russia used precisely this tactic in 2006 when it turned off Ukraine’s gas supplies during a dispute.
So instead, as Mr Biden claims, of strengthening the Western alliance, the president has placed it in far greater jeopardy.