A troubling pattern is emerging in President Biden’s foreign policy: Officials talk tough—then follow up with diplomacy that amounts to little. Two examples this week—on Chinese hacking and Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline—underscore the point.
Barack Obama and Donald Trump opposed the $11 billion Nord Stream pipeline, which could double the amount of natural gas exported directly to Germany from Russia. But the Biden Administration has now blessed the project’s completion, handing Vladimir Putin a major strategic victory at the expense of Ukraine and Europe’s energy independence.
The White House says the pipeline was inevitable and improving America’s relationship with the Germans should come first. But the deal with Germany is embarrassing in its weakness. In a joint U.S.-German statement on Wednesday, Berlin pledges to impose sanctions in the future “should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine.” We can hear them laughing in the Kremlin at that one.
The deal won’t go down well in Kyiv, which is struggling against Russian assaults on its territory. The country is set to lose billions in transit fees as Russian natural gas is diverted from routes that run through Ukraine. But at least “Germany commits to establish and administer a Green Fund for Ukraine to support Ukraine’s energy transition, energy efficiency, and energy security,” according to the joint statement. The U.S. and Germany say they’ll ask Russia to keep paying Ukraine. Are they kidding?
Giving a revisionist power more influence over Europe’s economy doesn’t help U.S. interests. The big win for Russian gas also comes as the Administration moves to restrict fossil-fuel production in the U.S. Angela Merkel, who negotiated the deal with President Biden, soon won’t even be Chancellor.