Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 24 February 2021
Not Only Nord Stream 2: What Will Biden Choose?
Unfortunately, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is another issue in U.S. foreign policy that the new administration tackles somewhat indecisively. Just as the United States has not taken any firm measures against Russia amid the Navalny case or GRU-linked cyberattacks targeting Washington, Biden and his team now are not taking any action towards the Russian-German energy link as promised during the campaign – to the growing bipartisan disappointment. A stance of the new administration towards Nord Stream 2 will also reflect Biden’s attitude to Europe and what policy he plans to adopt there. Will he be simply placing a safe bet on Germany or will Washington manage not to lose everything it has achieved so far under the Three Seas Initiative?
The latest punitive measures against Nord Stream 2 came from the Donald Trump administration just two days before Joe Biden took office. The new administration assumed the office more than a month ago and – contrary to what Biden said during the campaign – it has done nothing to impede the pernicious project. While Washington remains idle, Russian ships have resumed building Nord Stream 2 and are now laying pipes faster to complete the work on time. In January, Russia started working at the Nord Stream 2 construction site in Danish waters while now awaiting a permit from Germany. Significantly, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Biden did not say a word about the pipeline. Furthermore, the U.S. president is not following demands from members of the U.S. Congress to impose additional measures against the pipeline.
There are two possible explanations why Biden is reluctant to continue Trump’s policy on Nord Stream 2. The first one – saying that the United States does not obstruct the gas pipeline not to hinder Russian interests – seems unlikely. It is probably the second one as the new U.S. administration is seeking to mend ties with Germany whose officials asked to pay much for this, also by allowing Berlin to complete the gas link. This might be the reason why the U.S. Department of State did not impose any new sanctions on any businesses involved in the Nord Stream 2 project. The list includes only the Russian battleship Fortuna and its owner KWT-Rus, which has already been sanctioned by the Donald Trump administration.
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Washington did not decide to impose sanctions on any German or European companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project so as not to conflict with Berlin while agreeing to worsen ties with EU and NATO member countries and America’s top allies such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as the strategically important Ukraine. Biden still has some time to take action to block Nord Stream 2. It is also about time he decided whether to return to the idea of Barack Obama and delegate both responsibility for European affairs and West-Russia ties to Berlin, or to draw conclusions from the reset, the 2014 events, and the later development of both the Three Seas initiative and that of Intermarium plus Ukraine. The U.S. administration should not ignore Central and Eastern Europe. China is just waiting to take advantage of the fact that Poland, Ukraine, and other countries in the region are bitter about the shift in U.S. policy.
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