Trump’s alleged affection for Russia was an often repeated theme. His rhetoric was indeed quite disturbing, and he may have personally admired Russian President Vladimir Putin. In reality, however, he spoke out against Moscow more sharply than his predecessor, Barack Obama, and it seems he was also more firm in his rhetoric than his successor, Joe Biden. Case in point, Biden’s administration has just given way to Russia (and Germany) on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which directly threatens the energy security of Central and Eastern Europe.
Nord Stream 2 is already 95% complete and is supposed to carry gas directly from Russia to Germany, bypassing Central and Eastern Europe. Russia will thus be able to turn off gas to Central and Eastern European countries without any fear of upsetting Western Europe. Poland and Ukraine, in particular, have protested against the pipeline for a long time.
The U.S. political scene has long seemed to be united against the pipeline as well. Trump spoke out against Nord Stream 2, calling it a “terrible thing,” and with a large bipartisan majority, Congress ordered the government to impose sanctions on it.
“I am determined to do whatever we can to prevent that completion,” said Anthony Blinken during his confirmation hearing after being nominated to become secretary of state.
In February, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the administration’s “position on Nord Stream 2 has been very clear and remains unchanged. President Biden has made it clear that Nord Stream 2 is a bad idea. The pipeline divides Europe, it exposes Ukraine and Central Europe to Russian manipulation and coercion, and it goes against Europe’s own stated energy security goals.”
Last week, however, the Biden administration appeared to reverse course, announcing that it would not impose sanctions. More specifically, the report notes that Nord Stream 2 and its CEO Matthias Warnig, a former Stasi agent, were involved in activities labeled as sanctionable, but there would be no actual sanctions imposed.
The change in opinion seems to have arisen from German pressure. The Germans have long insisted that the pipeline must be completed. The advantage of Trump’s foreign policy is evident here, as the former president was not so interested in the opinion of European allies.
However, Biden wanted to be different from Trump in foreign policy, announcing that “diplomacy is back,” and Germany considers the Biden administration to be an important strategic partner. Current U.S. diplomacy shows that it is ready to throw the interests of its allies in Central and Eastern Europe overboard to meet German-Russian needs.
Then, there is another matter. Trump was also in the habit of making sudden reversals in foreign policy, for example, when he announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria. Such announcements were mostly followed by wild speculation in the media, many investigative articles about what was going on in the White House, and leaked insider information, whereas Biden’s change of mind is accepted as fact, without any in-depth analysis.
Biden’s decision thus shows that change in the White House does not mean better politics for our corner of the world.
Title image: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)