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Politics & Policy

Blinken Wanted Tough Nord Stream 2 Sanctions, WaPo Reports

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 14, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via Reuters)

The Washington Post broke the inside story of the Biden administration’s decision to waive sanctions on key players involved in constructing the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline (the project’s corporation and its CEO):

The State Department, in a position backed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his deputy Wendy Sherman, and Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, recommended a raft of U.S. sanctions intended to block the pipeline, without waivers for the company or chief executive, said officials familiar with the decision.

Biden, backed by top aides on the National Security Council, disagreed, arguing that the move would inflame relations with Germany, a key ally that views attempts to block the pipeline as a violation of its sovereignty. With the pipeline over 90 percent complete, White House officials viewed the project as a fait accompli that was not worth jeopardizing the U.S.-Germany relationship over. . . .

The debates on Russia policy within the Biden administration stem from different outlooks on how to produce a more productive relationship with Russia.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan and his deputy, Jon Finer, have emerged as a powerful duo in moving the administration toward a flexible and calibrated approach to dealing with the Kremlin, said officials familiar with the matter. The NSC’s senior director for Europe, Amanda Sloat, is seen as a careful steward of the U.S.-Germany relationship, a partnership that loomed large in the Nord Stream 2 wavier decision given the U.S. desire to enlist Berlin in a democratic coalition against China.

As an administration official told the Post, these internal debates do not seem to have translated into bitter divides within the administration. Blinken has since loyally defended the administration’s move before Congress, expressing the view that the pipeline is a fait accompli whose significance pales in comparison with that of the need to maintain U.S.-German ties.

The report sheds just a bit more light on the internal debates that have yielded a Russia policy that, at this time, places a premium on accommodating the Merkel government, while alienating allies such as Ukraine and Poland.

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