The Biden administration is struggling to create a coherent and substantive response to the buildup of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, it’s hoping that no one remembers that it helped create the conditions that led to this probable invasion when it approved the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
President Joe Biden and NATO have carted out the usual half-hearted diplomatic measures used to protest the actions of an aggressive regime that doesn’t give a damn if it gets sent a strongly worded letter.
Press secretary Jen Psaki promised a new round of economic sanctions — just like the ones that worked oh so spectacularly against Russia in 2014. Biden himself had a sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday for a good finger-wagging, threatening “significant and severe economic harm” if Russia attacks. He later assured the American people that the man who once heroically stood up to a local bully named Corn Pop almost 60 years ago also left a former KGB agent shaking in his jackboots.
But the cracks in the administration’s facade quickly began to show.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan admitted that there is no evacuation plan for American civilians in Ukraine — setting up a possible repeat of the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan in August. And, in a stunning display of diplomatic incompetence, Biden said Wednesday that sending troops to Ukraine was “not on the table.”
Without the threat of American troops on the ground, there’s not much preventing Putin from calling the administration’s bluff and launching the invasion as planned. Furthermore, according to The Associated Press, administration officials reportedly suggested that The U.S. should pressure Ukraine to relinquish control of lands in eastern Ukraine that have been occupied by Russia-backed separatists since 2014.
If true, the administration moved from “Russia will experience economic sanctions like no one has ever seen” to “maybe we should do Russia’s hard work for it and convince Ukraine to cede territory” in 48 hours.
Truly the foreign policy interpretation of the Democrats’ “It’s not happening — it is happening but only in a very limited way — it’s happening and it’s good, actually” spin tactic that we’ve recently heard on other issues like critical race theory and inflation.
The situation is shaping up to become an international embarrassment for the U.S. on the scale of the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan, but, like with that debacle, anyone who had been paying even a bit of attention could see it coming a mile away.
And it could have been prevented if Biden had kept his campaign promise to be tough on Russia and blocked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Nord Stream 2 is a recently-completed natural gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, providing a direct route for Russian gas to markets in Central Europe. Previously, the gas had to travel on overland pipelines through Belarus and, critically, Ukraine to reach buyers in Central and Western Europe.
The completion of Nord Stream 2 will deliver a severe blow to Ukraine’s revenue, based on the transit fees it collected for transporting gas between Russia and the rest of Europe, and has substantially decreased Ukraine’s bargaining power with Putin.
Before, the threat that Ukraine could cut off a large supply of Russia’s natural gas to Europe — which its economy is dependent on — made Putin wary of any overt aggressive action. Now, with Russia less reliant on Ukraine’s pipeline network as a result of Nord Stream, Putin can be much more aggressive in pushing his territorial claims on the country.
The pipeline was completed in September after help from the Biden administration. Biden reversed Trump-era sanctions on the pipeline in May and gave the completion of the project his approval in July. Biden specifically said that he approved the project to foster a better relationship with Germany.
One of the biggest champions of Nord Stream happened to also be one of the loudest voices calling for America to take a strong stand against Russian aggression: former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. she helped reach the initial deal on the Nord Stream construction back in 2011 with then-Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, and she even criticized U.S. sanctions against it.
Back in July — before Nord Stream was finished — Merkel and Biden vowed to stand “united against Russian aggression” if it decided to use Nord Stream 2 as a political weapon. Months later, Merkel denounced Russia’s troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, limply stating that the E.U. should level sanctions if it should invade Ukraine.
The U.S. has also threatened to revive sanctions on Nord Stream, but it’s too little too late.
Both Biden and Merkel knew that Russia would probably take aggressive action against Ukraine after the completion of Nord Stream and greenlit it anyway. For what? Slightly cheaper gas prices?
Germany, so concerned about European security against Russian aggression, pushed a project that would make Russia richer and knew that doing so would more than likely cause a crisis in Eastern Europe. And Uncle Joe went along with it because he didn’t want to offend the Germans.
The extraordinary hypocrisy and shortsightedness behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, has allowed Russia to set up a fait accompli that will reinforce Putin’s expansionist ambitions and prove how complacent America and its European allies have become.
Hayden Daniel is the opinion editor at the Daily Caller