On August 2, Sen. Bob Menendez and ten of his European counterparts condemned Biden’s Nord Stream 2 deal with Germany.
Menendez, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and a Democrat, joined leaders from Estonia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Lithuania.
The U.S.-Germany Agreement
On July 21, 2021 the Biden administration announced an agreement with Germany that will, in effect, allow the completion of Nord Stream 2.
Nord Stream 2 is a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Both the Obama and Trump administrations opposed the pipeline because it hands Russian President Vladimir Putin a powerful geopolitical weapon. In 2006 and 2009, Moscow cut off supply to the Ukrainian pipeline leaving Central European states without power in the middle of winter. Threatening a dramatic price increase or cutting supply could be more effective than military force.
The new agreement promises that the U.S. and Germany will “hold Russia to account for its aggression and malign activities by imposing costs via sanctions and other tools.” Germany will help negotiate a new Ukraine gas transit agreement with Russia, and Germany will give $175 million to fund Ukrainian renewable energy programs. Germany will appoint a special envoy to Ukraine with $70 million that will supposedly “safeguard Ukraine from Russia cutting off gas supplies to the country.”
Menendez is not the only member of Congress to raise questions, there has long been bipartisan opposition to Nord Stream 2.
In January 2021, Congress passed bipartisan legislation authorizing Nord Stream sanctions. In May, the Biden administration lifted sanctions on the company building the pipeline, despite a report from his own State Department that the company is engaged in sanctionable activity. Lifting sanctions was harshly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent that completion” of Nord Stream 2 during his confirmation hearing. In March, Blinken told Germany there was “no ambiguity” in American opposition to the pipeline. Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told Congress the pipeline was “very dangerous.”
On July 2, 2021 a House panel passed an amendment that would repeal the State Department’s waiver sanctions, further showing resolve to block the pipeline’s completion.
After the new U.S.-Germany deal was announced, Sen. Ted Cruz called the agreement between Russia and the United States a “generational geopolitical win for Putin and a catastrophe for the United States.” Sen. Cruz has blocked 60 Biden nominees to the State Department from confirmation and says he will lift the holds “just as soon as they impose the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 that are required by federal law.”
The Biden State Department has emphasized that they “continue to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.” Because construction is 90 percent complete, Biden has prioritized the U.S. relationship with Germany.
Germany’s elimination of nuclear power and coal has made energy prices soar, and it needs cheap natural gas from Russia. Nord Stream 2 is seen as critical to lowering energy costs. However, Angela Merkel is retiring, and German elections in September could dramatically shift Berlin’s priorities.
One-third of Russian gas exports go through Ukraine to Europe, which has made several states invested in Ukrainian security. Without concerns about backlash from Europe, Moscow will be more aggressive. On July 12, in a 5,000-word essay, Putin claimed Ukrainian people are “one” with the Russians and the Ukrainian state is an artificial creation.
Kyiv will also lose $2 billion annually in transit fees from the pipeline as supplies run through Nord Stream 2 instead.
Ukraine and Poland immediately released a joint statement excoriating the deal.
Ukraine also invoked its Association Agreement with the EU, citing two provisions and demanding immediate meetings with the European Commission and Germany. This bureaucratic maneuver shows Kyiv is not pleading for Western help on bended knee, but demanding Germany, the most powerful EU country, live up to their promises.
The Biden administration sent Derek Chollet, a State Department official, to Kyiv and Warsaw to do damage control, but his efforts were apparently unsuccessful.
Moreover, Axios reported: “The Ukrainians felt the administration was effectively linking the White House visit to Ukraine’s position on the Nord Stream deal and pressuring them not to speak out.”
Biden has defined his foreign policy as “a battle between democracies and autocracies.” If capitulating to Moscow on Nord Stream 2 is simply to keep Berlin on board with confronting China, he will have caved to one dictator in the name of uniting against another.