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For years, Democrats and their cable-news echo chamber spread ludicrous rumors about former President Donald Trump being an agent of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. The irony is that Trump, when it came to substantive policy, took a very hawkish line against Moscow — moves his Democratic successor is now busy undoing.
He shored up missile defense in Central and Eastern Europe; stood strongly with America’s allies in the region, and unilaterally withdrew the US from bilateral and multilateral accords, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, that buttressed Russia, which refused to comply with their terms.
Most notably, Trump adamantly tried to block construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a nearly completed, but stalled, 764-mile natural-gas pipeline connecting Russia with Germany via the Baltic Sea. Nord Stream 2 is an indispensable tool for a Russian Federation seeking to extend its energy domination of the Continent and circumvent Ukraine as an energy transit station.
But Biden’s Washington won’t oppose the pipeline.
On Wednesday, roughly a week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel left DC, the United States and Germany issued a joint statement signing off on the completion of Nord Stream 2.
Team Biden’s approval marks the culmination of a stunning about-face. Biden himself has often called Putin a “KGB thug.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki asserted just last month that the administration “continues to believe that Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal for Europe.” State Department Spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday — literally one day before the Biden-Merkel joint statement — blasted the pipeline as a “Kremlin geopolitical project that is intended to expand Russia’s influence over Europe’s energy resources and to circumvent Ukraine.”
Merkel is undoubtedly happy with this outcome, and there is no one happier than Putin himself. But America’s Central and Eastern European allies are undoubtedly livid at what they rightly view as a destructive and self-defeating kowtow to Moscow and Berlin.
In May, I interviewed Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw for Newsweek, and there was perhaps no issue on which he was more passionate than he was on the correctness of Trump’s unwavering anti-Nord Stream 2 stance and the wrongness of Biden’s gratuitous flip-flop.
Even more important, the deal hurts US natural-gas exporters, effectively depriving them of access to the key European market. Astoundingly, Biden’s greenlighting of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline comes on the heels of his lamentable decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline here at home.
What could possibly explain such bizarre and counterproductive behavior? On the rhetorical front, Biden — now tottering in his political dotage — is not exactly known as a paragon of lucidity. And if a recent Politico report on Vice President Kamala Harris’ hellish office is any indication, the Biden administration more generally is a disjointed and fractious mess. In terms of selling out domestic natural-gas producers and exporters — well, Biden and his political party have never much cared for them anyway.
But the clearest reason for Biden’s move is his desire to appease Merkel and give Berlin a major and visible geopolitical win.
Germany is the most powerful European Union member and exercises outsize influence over the Continent’s economic and political affairs. The EU may be headquartered in Brussels, but Berlin is the crown jewel of the European integration project — and the indispensable bulwark, in the aftermath of the UK’s successful Brexit, against the centrifugal threat of greater Euroskepticism.
If one wishes — as does the modern globalist left, and as does the modern Democratic Party that is very much a part of that globalist left — to fortify the EU and preserve its status as an iconic transnational institution, then signing off on Nord Stream 2 makes a great deal of sense. Liberal regimes such as Germany and Belgium win, whereas nationalist regimes such as Poland and Hungary lose.
The United States, of course, also loses. As does Democrats’ feigned and disingenuous moral high ground as a corrective counterweight to Trump’s purported pro-Russia dovishness.