The Corner

A Glaring Omission from Biden’s Get-Tough-On-Russia Policy

Then-Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow in 2011. (Alexander Natruskin/Reuters)

The recent actions from the Biden administration in response to “harmful foreign activities of the Government of the Russian Federation” are good, although it is debatable how much real pain will be inflicted upon Vladimir Putin and his cronies. By expelling ten Russian diplomats, the U.S. can expect Russia to expel a roughly similar number of our diplomats in the near future, a familiar game of tit-for-tat. Biden is also extending an invitation for a summit with Putin – which is not inherently bad, but somewhat waters down any effort to paint Russia as a reckless and aggressive international pariah to be shunned.

But the White House actions announced today strangely omitted congressionally mandated sanctions against the major Russia-Germany gas pipeline Nord Stream 2.

And I notice that when speaking with German chancellor Angela Merkel this week, Biden did not mention the pipeline. The last time anyone at the White House publicly mentioned Nord Stream 2 was March 24, when Jen Psaki said, “We continue to believe it’s a bad deal.  I don’t think we have an update on the po- — our policy position beyond that.”

From what we can see, it appears that the White House has either given up on this fight or has put it on the back burner.

But what’s really weird is that foreign newspapers seem to think Biden is spoiling for a fight on this issue, making a big deal out of a statement by Joseph Giordono-Scholz, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Berlin.

“It is a geopolitical project by Russia that threatens Europe’s energy security. It also threatens that of Ukraine and the Eastern NATO partners,” Giordono-Scholz said recently. “We will continue to register any organization that may be involved in any sanctioned activity. We have made it clear that any company risks being penalized for participating in Nord Stream 2.” From this, the Daily Express over in the U.K, wrote, “Joe Biden erupts at Germany over Russia deal as sanctions threatened: ‘We will stop it!’

Does Joe Biden really want to stop Nord Stream 2? Does he want to stop it particularly badly? If so, he’s got an odd way of showing it, by not sanctioning companies working on the pipeline, and rarely if ever mentioning the issue.

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