Well, Joe Biden came through again for Vladimir Putin, erasing years of bipartisan U.S. objections to his dream natural gas pipeline to Europe beneath the Baltic Sea. And it cost the Russian leaders nothing.
Last spring, as part of his suck-up to the Russian president, Biden lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2 builders and executives, again without any economic or diplomatic reciprocity.
Putin is a sly one. And Biden is big on freebies.
All this after Biden kills the Keystone XL pipeline to support Americans’ energy needs.
The huge Nord Stream 2 pipeline, now nearing completion at an estimated cost of $11 billion, will soon be delivering millions of cubic feet of Russian Arctic gas to Germany and other European customers, vastly enriching Moscow’s coffers and Putin’s standing at home. And cutting transit royalties formerly paid to Ukraine.
Oh, and at the same time, Putin’s gas will undercut European sales of U.S. LNG that was part of Donald Trump’s successful energy independence programs. Biden’s move is probably just a coincidence, don’t ya think?
Also, as one of Biden’s first acts as president, he killed the Keystone pipeline that would have delivered Canadian oil to American refineries in Texas. Trump had approved it as another part of his energy independence initiative for the country.
So, in Biden’s eyes, Russian pipeline to hurt U.S. sales and leverage in Europe, OK. Keystone pipeline to help America’s energy supply, bad.
The Biden administration prefers to portray lifting U.S. disapproval of Putin’s pipe as a goodwill gesture to Germany’s long-serving Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is leaving office this fall after four terms. Bringing immense Russian gas supplies to her country is a legacy dream for Merkel’s tenure as Germany’s leader, now going on 16 years.
Biden and Merkel met in the White House last week and aides have been working to finalize details of U.S. approval ever since. Reportedly they include a German commitment to help grow the energy industry of Ukraine, which will lose $2 billion in annual gas transit fees.
Say, wasn’t Hunter Biden once a well-paid employee of Ukraine’s energy industry?
The State Department sent a senior official to Kiev to reassure Ukrainian leaders that Russia’s sneaky pipeline end-around to undercut its finances and Biden’s new approval of it did not mean diminished support for embattled Ukraine.
Which, of course, it does.
Many analysts see the results as a double win for Putin. The new pipeline, now with about 700 of its 764 miles completed, gives him long-term access to larger European markets with the income and strategic leverage that carries.
And he weakens Ukraine again financially with the ultimate goal of annexing that land. Putin recently published an ominous op-ed calling Russians and Ukrainians “one people.”
More serious damage to the United States is likely to come longer term. Growing reliance on Russian energy supplies throughout Europe gives Putin increased leverage over those countries’ foreign policies in general and NATO specifically. They may have significant second thoughts over any new or continued sanctions on Moscow for its existing or any future misbehaviors.
As my Red State colleagues have previously written, Sen. Ted Cruz took major exception to Biden lifting sanctions on Russia, calling him a Putin puppet. At the same time, others have noted campaign donations to the Big Guy from a Russian lobbyist before the president’s first helpful Nord Stream decision.
Lifting sanctions without any quid pro quos has become a trademark of Biden’s foreign policies. He’s already lifted some sanctions on Iranian officials and Iran in hopes of encouraging them to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear pact that was designed to slow Teheran’s determined drive for nuclear weapons and eventually ICBM’s.
But why should they bother renegotiating anything when they’re getting the goodies upfront for free?
This follows the pattern of Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden was vice president, of front-loading the lucrative benefits for Iran while backloading the requirements. Trump called that agreement one of the worst ever written and took the U.S. out of it.
Previously, Obama killed a long-planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe designed to counter future Iranian missile attacks. Obama hoped that would please Putin next door and prompt him to exert pressure on Teheran. Instead, the former KGB colonel sold the mullahs a nuclear power plant and a new sophisticated system of anti-aircraft defenses.
He also launched Russian military training for Iranian militias fighting in Syria to support that dictator, training which they can use anywhere Iran exports its military activities.
Obama did levy economic sanctions on Russia and Russians close to Putin when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. They’ve proven ineffective, however, in altering the behavior of Putin, who’s also fomented an armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Other than that, though, freebies awarded to foreign governments by recent Democrat presidents have proven quite effective in steering positive diplomacy that benefits the United States.