Embarrassed by its kowtowing to Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, ransomware, energy blackmail, America's nuclear posture, and even in low Earth orbit, the Biden administration is resorting to increasingly hysterical defenses of its Russia strategy.
Take the comments by a senior administration official, on Wednesday, who told Politico, "We’re seeing some members of Congress press for sanctions that don’t actually deter Russia but do threaten transatlantic unity in order to score political points at home — all while holding up critical national security funding on a range of unrelated issues. It makes no sense."
Oh, it makes sense all right. The administration's gripe here is over Republican-led efforts to reimpose sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline. The Biden administration doesn't want those sanctions because they will upset Germany, and so, the White House has joined a ludicrous German diplomatic effort to kill off the sanctions.
It is a terrible strategic misjudgment, but it merely reflects Biden's broader delusions about deterring Russia and securing U.S. alliances in Europe. The senior administration official's comments to Politico prove as much. The official says that the Republican sanctions "don't actually deter Russia" and "do threaten transatlantic security." Both claims are false. Indeed, those assertions represent a direct inversion of the truth.
The GOP sanctions legislation would force Nord Stream 2 to be suspended either before or shortly after it begins operation. That would mean energy flows would continue to move through existing pipelines that transit eastern and central Europe, giving NATO eastern flank member states the leverage to ensure their energy security. In contrast, Nord Stream 2 transits directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea and into Germany. Its operation will mean the reduction of energy transits and associated fees through Ukraine.
Putin has no interest in assisting President Volodymyr Zelensky's pro-Western government. Nord Stream 2 would also allow Putin to cut off energy supplies to Central and Eastern Europe while continuing to pump gas to Germany. The Biden administration says this won't happen because it has an agreement with Germany to pressure Russia to maintain Ukrainian energy flows. Unfortunately, that agreement is utterly unenforceable and meaningless.
How about the official's claim that the GOP sanctions "threaten transatlantic unity?" This is only true if one defines "transatlantic unity" as "German opinion." When it comes to Europe, only Germany truly supports Nord Stream 2. And Berlin is hardly the linchpin of the trans-Atlantic alliance that the Biden administration pretends. Germany's new government (taking office next week) is abandoning both the 2% NATO minimum target for defense spending and, vindicating Russian intimidation campaigns, NATO's nuclear deterrence posture.
Incoming foreign minister Annalena Baerbock is a rare voice against Russian and Chinese aggression, but she's likely to be drowned out by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Like Angela Merkel, his impulse is appeasement toward Russia and mercantilism toward China.
The sad truth is that, in 2021, Germany is far less valuable a U.S.-NATO ally than Russia-proximate nations such as Norway, Poland, the Baltics, and other Western European powers such as France. Yes, Germany hosts important U.S. military bases. But why not relocate those bases next door to Poland? Top line: Where other trans-Atlantic allies deserve more U.S. support, Germany deserves disdain.
Biden talks a great deal about the importance of alliances and democracy. But assessed in Europe, his actions only evince damaging subservience to Putin's favorite puppet.